At Gurgaon hospital, no oxygen despite appeals: ‘Will we save lives or handle this?’

Over the last few days, officials said the hospital had been receiving a third of its usual oxygen supply, even as demand had increased “three to five times”.

Gurgaon’s Artemis Hospital had a tense Friday as staff struggled to meet oxygen demands of patients because they hadn’t received their supply for the day.

Officials at the hospital, which is treating 140 Covid patients, with 50 in the ICU, said at 10 am that the supply would only last three hours. Over the last few days, they said, the hospital had been receiving a third of its usual oxygen supply, even as demand had increased “three to five times”.

“We are getting a supply which only lasts us 24 hours, sometimes even less. Yesterday because the supply did not come, I had to put out an urgent tweet in the morning,” said Dr Devilna Chakravarty, the managing director.

Tagging Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the Office of the Prime Minister of India, and Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal, she had written: “Artemis hospital Gurgaon is in its last leg of oxygen…last night’s commitment of oxygen replenishment remained unfulfilled…only 3 hours to go!!! Please help us urgently…”

At 5.06 pm, a tweet was put out from the official account of Artemis Hospitals stating that the problem continued to persist: “Artemis Hospital still awaits for Oxygen Supply! Barely any Oxygen left with us. We request the government to fulfill our request and help us save lives.”

Said Dr Anjali Kaul, the medical superintendent: “INOX is our oxygen supplier. Post SOS message, we have been informed that oxygen supply is transient but so far we have not received it. For refill of cylinders, we have been going to different vendors wherever it is available. It is a minute to minute struggle for all of us.”

With no respite despite assurances that “at least one ton” of oxygen would reach them, hospital officials said they spent the day independently making temporary arrangements for patients.

“Our central supply is over so we are managing with large cylinders; it is like a war front. My nodal officer for oxygen and the entire team is looking at alternatives. We are getting cylinders which we are refilling from Manesar, where the government is helping us, but actually we want our central tank and our central supply to be filled because for a large hospital like ours, how much will we rush around with cylinders all over the place?” said Dr Chakravarty.

“We are also rationalising the oxygen use, doing oxygen audits in the hospital, keeping patients on a lower level of oxygen at 88, 89 instead of 93, 94. We are making sure there are no leakages in the line or from the masks…,” she said.

By Friday evening, the hospital had finally arranged for oxygen on its own from a steel plant in Kashipur, and was arranging a tanker to transport it.

“Should we look at lives and save them or should we handle all this? The second wave has taken a toll on us. Because of the huge amount of infectivity of this virus, people are saturating very fast, so the demand for oxygen has risen by leaps and bounds. The supply has to be uninterrupted, otherwise we are in big trouble,” said Dr Chakravarty.

The situation arose even as Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner Yash Garg offered reassurance that there is no dearth of oxygen in the district. “Oxygen is available in sufficient quantity in the district and the administration is providing liquid oxygen to all hospitals. The cooperation of senior officers of the state government is also being taken in this matter. An oxygen plan for the district is being prepared by obtaining data on consumption and availability of oxygen in all hospitals of the district so that there is no shortage,” he said on Friday afternoon.

Officials claim the daily average oxygen required for Gurgaon is 25 metric tons per day, with the supply coming from the Panipat plant. With the Haryana government’s allocation now being increased to 120 metric tons, another 20 metric tons have been allocated for Gurgaon from Bhiwadi.

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