New Delhi, India – On Saturday afternoon, 12 coronavirus patients died at Batra Hospital in New Delhi after running out of medical oxygen. Among the dead was Dr. RK Himthani, head of the gastroenterology unit at the same hospital.
The private hospital in South Delhi was in the Indian capital and all over India to sound an alarm over the shortage of oxygen shortages as they struggled to cope with the patients who were dumped, who needed ventilators. and ICU beds.
Over the past week, Batra Hospital administration said it had faced the same shortage, but oxygen arrived minutes before it ran out. On Saturday they ran out of luck.
“There was no help”
Batra Hospital executive director Dr Sudhanshu Bankata told Al Jazeera that they launched the first SOS alarm at around 7am on Saturday, but “there was no help from anywhere”.
As the day progressed, oxygen levels in critical care rooms continued to plummet.
Doctors and paramedics from the ICU, located on the fifth floor of the hospital in south Delhi, went to work with “ambu bags” (manual resuscitators) to keep patients alive, fighting the weather.
“It was a chaotic situation,” said a doctor who did not want to reveal his identity for fear of reparation. “There was panic around.”
He said hospital staff also had to push back desperate family members who entered the ICU, worried about their sick loved ones after feeling the oxygen supply dwindle.
Meanwhile, Bankata filed a video appeal on Twitter, saying the hospital was using an oxygen tank that would not last more than ten minutes.
Around noon, the hospital ran out of oxygen for more than an hour and killed a dozen patients in the ICU, including Himthani.
It was the second such incident in the national capital since a fierce second wave of COVID-19 hit India earlier this month.
On April 23, at least 26 patients died at the city’s Jaipur Golden Hospital when the supply of oxygen to their critical care units ended.
“The allocated (oxygen) quota is much lower than what Delhi has requested,” Bankata told Al Jazeera.
Center, Delhi does not skimp on oxygen
By quota, Bankata meant the distribution of medical oxygen by the federal government to the states, including Delhi.
“Yesterday, Delhi received 440 tonnes (metric tonnes) of oxygen, which is lower than the allocated quota of 590 tonnes. We need 976 tonnes of oxygen daily as we increase the number of beds,” the Deputy Prime Minister said on Monday. in chief of Delhi, Manish Sisodia.
Last week, frequent oxygen requests by Delhi hospitals sparked a verbal confrontation between the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government of Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
On April 24, Kejriwal relayed his request to Modi for oxygen during a virtual meeting convened by the prime minister with some ministers in chief. A modified Modi accused Kejriwal of “breaking protocol” by making developments public at an “internal meeting”.
On Saturday, the Delhi High Court, in a sharp rebuke, directed the central government to ensure that the capital’s hospitals had an adequate supply of oxygen. The Modi government, instead of complying, filed a petition urging the court to regain its order.
The high court on Monday asked the center to respond to the Delhi government’s request to hand over the supply and distribution of oxygen to the armed forces.
Meanwhile, a joint statement from 13 prominent opposition leaders on Sunday called on the central government to “focus all attention on ensuring the uninterrupted flow of oxygen supply to all hospitals and health centers across the country.”
It is a serious situation. The Modi government must act. Our joint call to immediate action 👇🏾 pic.twitter.com/OY7YRbGDAQ
– Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) May 2, 2021
Leaders also demanded an “immediate launch” of a “free nationwide mass vaccination program.”
“It simply came to our notice then. The Modi government must act, “tweeted Sitaram Yechury, leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM).
Meanwhile, social media continued to act as a helpline for desperate people looking for oxygen or hospital beds for their infected relatives.
Some did not succeed.
Harbhajan Singh lost his wife Kawaljeet Kaur, 64, to Batra Hospital when he ran out of oxygen on Saturday.
“I had told my children that if we sent him to the hospital, he would not return alive. And that is exactly what has happened. He was talking until yesterday and today he is gone, ”Singh told Al Jazeera in front of the hospital, struggling to stay calm.
“My wife died because we didn’t get any help.”
Himthani’s friends also say they are not responsible for the virus for his death, rather it was the government that did not provide him with oxygen while he stayed in the hospital bed looking for air.
“We lost our happy, smiling face … not because of the virus, but because of the LACK OF OXYGEN,” tweeted teammate Tushar Mehta.
When Al Jazeera contacted him for his comments on Himthani’s death, Mehta said, “He died of lack of oxygen. Whose job is it to supply oxygen? “