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Oxygen crisis hits Maharashtra

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Image Courtesy: Reuters

Navy hospital INHS Asvini at Colaba is stressed with a lack of oxygen supply. Oxygen suppliers are not able to meet the demand; many hospitals are sending their vehicles to oxygen suppliers and waiting in queues for hours and days.

The lack of oxygen has also hit one of the largest Army/Navy hospitals, where many aged and retired Army-Navy staff are undertaking COVID treatment at INHS Asvini. The state has never seen such a crisis and severe scarcity of oxygen cylinders.

A doctor from Mohit Hospital in Borivali told Afternoon Voice, “We send our vehicle almost every day to various oxygen companies, for our COVID-19 patients, but they return empty hand in spite waiting for one long day, the second day again they try their best.”

The shortage of oxygen to hospitals in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) has hit not just private and civic centres, but also defence hospitals who have been standing in line outside manufacturing companies. There are restrictions and new rules but hospitals of state are struggling every day with one or the other challenges and the biggest crisis right now is Oxygen.

Maharashtra has added 62,097 new cases to its tally on Tuesday; Mumbai reported a slight dip, recording 7,214 new cases. At the state cabinet meeting, many ministers suggested the state push for a harder lockdown for another fortnight since the numbers were still rising.

The largest oxygen manufacturing company Phoenix Gas Limited in Turbhe saw dozens of trucks and mini tempos waiting outside to fill their oxygen cylinders.

Medical superintendent SP Kalantri at Kasturba Hospital in Wardha, Maharashtra said, “I am nervous about whether hospitals will have the capacity to provide enough oxygen to patients with COVID-19, we have 934-beds. The local administration has asked him to create 200 oxygen-beds by May, up from the 100 they had earlier requested”.

All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director, Randeep Guleria at a press conference said, “Several of the patients can be saved by giving just one treatment, that is by giving them oxygen but right now even oxygen is out of supply and that is a matter of concern.”

“About fifteen per cent of all Covid-19 patients with “severe infection” will require oxygen while five per cent with “critical infection” will need a ventilator, the World Health Organization has said. The rest of the 80 per cent will be symptomless or mildly ill and will not need oxygen”, Guleria added.

Despite seeing 3,000 patients daily, on average, Kasturba Hospital does not have an oxygen tank on campus with piped liquid oxygen. Their regular supply of large oxygen cylinders comes by truck from a vendor about 50 km away. The cylinders are docked in an “oxygen bank” on their campus. The oxygen reaches wards and the intensive care unit via copper pipes.

Medical oxygen is supplied through several methods. In well-established set-ups, liquid oxygen is filled into large tanks built into the ground, then supplied via a network of pipelines that reach an output point on a wall near a patient’s bed.

Patients can be directly connected to the oxygen supply as and when required. Piped oxygen networks are more automated, reducing the chances of human error, but many medical establishments in India, especially those in smaller cities and towns, depending on cylinders. An adequate supply of cylinders is the biggest problem for medium, small and rural hospitals.

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