This continues to be a huge problem despite the State government claiming that oxygen is not in short supply
Although the State government has been claiming that there is no shortage of liquid medical oxygen, many hospitals continued to ask their admitted patients to shift to other facilities as they are running out of stock. Government helplines 108 and 1912 were flooded with calls seeking help.
Since Tuesday morning, the Emergency Response Team (ERT), a volunteer group, has been getting many calls from desperate families. ERT volunteers said they have got several calls from families of patients admitted in as many eight hospitals in various parts of the city on Tuesday, requesting help in finding oxygenated beds.
At Athreya Hospital in Chandapura, families of five critical patients had been informed on Tuesday morning that oxygen stock would not last more than half an hour. “Following our desperate pleas, the Bengaluru Urban District Health Officer (DHO) G.A. Srinivas visited our hospital and made some temporary arrangements to last for a day. On his assurance, we have sent a truck with 20 jumbo cylinders for refilling from the Peenya Refilling plant. However, we lost one of the five patients,” said Narayan Swamy, hospital medical director.
Prasanna H.M., president, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA), said many smaller hospitals are shelling out five-six times more than the regular price for procuring oxygen from vendors in neighbouring States. “It is difficult to get even if we are ready to pay the high cost. I managed to buy 2 kilolitres from a vendor in Hosur on Tuesday paying ₹95 per metric tonne as against ₹22 per metric tonne. If the situation continues, my hospital will stop admitting patients from Wednesday,” he said.
Disputing the government claims of ‘no shortage’, Dr. Prasanna said, “Let the health officials visit each hospital to check the ground reality. Unless the liquid re-fillers supply more to the vendors, they cannot supply to us.” He hoped the government’s assurance of diverting industrial oxygen for medical purposes would materialise soon. “The oxygen war room that has been set up to facilitate supply to hospitals is of no use. Hospitals who call up the war room are being reprimanded for the high consumption,” he claimed.
Bengaluru Urban DHO Srinivas said he visited several hospitals on Tuesday and assessed the demand. “The problem is many smaller hospitals is that they do not have storage capacity for more oxygen. They have to refill their existing cylinders as and when they become empty. We have made arrangements for these hospitals to send their cylinders to be refilled at the Peenya plant,” he said.
Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said that a round-the-clock call centre to monitor supply of oxygen and Remedisivir to hospitals has been set up. “We have deputed 29 personnel who will work in three shifts from Wednesday itself to ensure smooth supply,” he said.
JSW Steel to help
JSW Steel has agreed to supply 400 tonnes of liquid oxygen per day to the State to treat COVID-19 patients. This comes after a meeting between Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh R. Nirani and the representatives of JSW Steel led by Deputy Managing Director Vinod Nowal.
The Minister, who convened a meeting with representatives of several steel companies who produce liquid oxygen for their use in steel production, called upon them to produce oxygen in huge quantity to address the public health emergency.