Charan Munjal, whose 58-year-old mother is on ventilator support at Prem Hospital in Haryana’s Panipat district, has been frantically trying to arrange a oxygen cylinder since the morning on Tuesday after doctors told him that they only had five to six hours of oxygen left.
“In the morning, I received a call from the doctor, asking me to set up a circuit supply because their oxygen supply will only last a few more hours. They also requested that I transport my mother to a different hospital. However, there are no hospitals in the area that have ventilators. And my mother is in a critical condition,” said a tearful Charan whose mother is a Covid-positive patient. She has been on ventilator support for the past seven days.
Prem Hospital in Panipat district issued an SOS call on Tuesday stating that “they are running out of oxygen supply,” a day after Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that there was no shortage of medical oxygen in the state.
“We are witnessing shortage of oxygen currently. The oxygen supply we have would last till 6 pm only. The hospital management is talking to the authorities and ensuring that oxygen reaches us on time,” said Dr Vivek Mathur from the hospital.
However, at the end of the day, Newsclick was informed that Prem Hospital had received the crucial oxygen supply for the night.
Haryana on Tuesday reported the highest single-day increase in Covid-related fatalities with 84 deaths and the highest increase in infections, with 11,931 new cases.
A sombre picture of the Covid situation is emerging from Haryana while the state government and its ministers appear to be hiding it behind the claims that “all is well.”
A day ago, families of five patients had staged a protest in Hisar after the patients died due to lack of oxygen at Soni Burn Hospital. Speaking to Newsclick, Soni Burn Hospital’s Director, Raja Soni said that they have stopped admitting Covid patients now.
“Authorities have not assured us regular supply of oxygen. Instead, they have launched a probe on us. So, we have no option left but to stop taking COVID patients,” Soni said.
Soni Burn Hospital has six patients who were already admitted prior to the incident. According to the management, as the number of cases in Haryana grew, Soni Burn Hospital used 60-70 oxygen cylinders per day.
“We have 18 cylinders in total, with two backups. We have been refilling cylinders at such a rapid rate in recent days that we have been filling about 70 cylinders per day. Earlier, only four oxygen cylinders will last two days in non-covid times.”
Due to a lack of oxygen supply, 13 patients were declared dead in three Haryana hospitals on Monday in less than 24 hours. Four of the 13 patients died at Virat Hospital in Rewari, while the remaining four died at Kathuria Hospital in Gurgaon.
In Virat Hospital, the director Virat Veer Yadav said that the government was intimated that his hospital was running short of oxygen supply.
“I spoke to the DC, SP, everyone I could, to inform that we were short of oxygen supply but there was no response. We were told that our oxygen truck has been put on hold after CMO’s order,” he said.
Sources told Newsclick that hospitals are under a lot of pressure to not speak about the oxygen shortage.
Four Haryana plants produce a total of 272 metric tonnes of oxygen per day, according to officials. Air Liquid Limited in Panipat produces 260 metric tonnes of oxygen per day, while Jindal Steel Limited, Gupta Oxygen, and Gupta Industrial produce 7, 3.2, and 2.5 metric tonnes respectively.
Haryana is an oxygen retailer as well. It supplies Delhi with 140 metric tonnes, Punjab with 20 metric tonnes, and Uttar Pradesh with 5 metric tonnes.
As per the sources, since the government in Haryana has handed over the responsibility to the nodal officers, hospitals are witnessing crisis. In the case of Prem Hospital, which is considered one of the most reputed hospitals in Panipat and is located parallel to Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) refinery, such shortage has been seen as unprecedented.
“The nodal officers are unable to streamline oxygen supplies in order to meet demand. The government's control has resulted in turmoil,” said an official requesting anonymity.
On Monday, CM Manohar Lal Khattar said that the “working of private hospitals was being closely monitored and they should refrain from admitting more patients than their capacity.”
In Haryana, private hospitals are experiencing a severe shortage of oxygen. “We are facing lack of oxygen supply. We are afraid to take in COVID patients who are in critical condition. We really do not want to give SOS calls when we face shortage but there is no other option,” a hospital source said, adding that hospital are facing backlash for publicly giving SOS calls for oxygen supply and hence, are not divulging much information.
In Sonipat, three big private hospitals--Bhagwandas hospital, Haryana Hospital, and FIMS hospital experienced oxygen shortage on Monday.
Vakil Jain, Media Advisor at FIMS hospital in Sonipat, told Newsclick that they won’t take COVID patients now. “We are already treating 38 patients who were admitted few days ago. After experiencing oxygen shortage yesterday (Monday) and pleading for oxygen from authorities, it became a very difficult task to arrange oxygen. Right now, we have oxygen but we have stopped taking new covid patients,” Jain said.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Haryana’s oxygen quota was increased by the Centre. “Thankful to the Government of india for increasing Oxygen quota of Haryana from 162 MT to 232 MT,” Haryana health minister Anil Vij tweeted.
According to commentators, the Bharatiya Janata Party government's current Covid-control model in the state would put Haryana in a bind. The question remains that where patients would go if the government Covid hospitals are overburdened and private hospitals are unable to take in new patients.