Hospitals plead helplessness as COVID-19 patients gasp for oxygen

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If supplies aren’t increased, the situation is likely to get out of hand, a doctor warns

53-year-old Krishna Rao (name changed), a resident of Ramavarappadu in the city, tested positive for COVID-19 three days ago. He went home in quarantine.

Later he got short of breath. When he turned to the doctors, they pleaded helplessness and suggested that he make arrangements for oxygen himself while he promised paramedical support.

His case is not an isolated one. The city’s hospitals continue to struggle with oxygen starvation, causing anxiety for patients and their loved ones.

Without an option, relatives are seen running from the pillar to the post office or making desperate calls for help.

According to information, the demand for oxygen in both government and private hospitals has increased phenomenally.

The oxygen demand in the Government General Hospital (GGH) in Vijayawada used to be 2 to 3 KL per day. The supplier refilled the request once every four days.

The demand is increasing

With the outbreak of the pandemic, demand has increased over the past week.

“Now 20 to 30 KL of oxygen are consumed every day. More than 700 patients are treated at the GGH. We cannot predict the exact needs. We can only say that the need for oxygen is very high. If supplies are not increased, the situation will likely get out of hand, ”says a senior GGH doctor on condition of anonymity.

Indian Medical Association (IMA) general secretary Garlapati Nanda Kishore said they had asked IMA members and the medical community to postpone any chosen or planned surgeries. The medical profession has also been asked to make emergencies a top priority, he says.

Renowned cardiologist and IMA Vijayawada chapter secretary, Karthik Tummala, who runs a COVID care center, says there is a mismatch between supply and demand for oxygen.

“There are many industries that use oxygen on a large scale. The government can reroute this oxygen to save lives, ”he says.

Compared to the first wave of COVID-19, the number of patients with ventilatory support and HFNCs has increased inconceivably, he says.

Price hits the roof

While this is so, the price of medical oxygen has gone through the roof.

A 50 KL cylinder normally costs £ 450. Its price had reached £ 750 during the first wave. The price is now £ 1,350 excluding transportation.

Even if the hospital is willing to pay, there are no deliveries. Plus, patients’ oxygen bills alone are in the range of £ 5,000 to £ 7,000 per day.

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