Andhra Pradesh

Hospitals plead helplessness as COVID-19 patients gasp for oxygen

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

Later, he had started experiencing shortness of breath. As he reached out to the doctors, they had pleaded helplessness, and suggested that he make arrangements for oxygen on his own, while promising paramedical support.

His is not an isolated case. Hospitals in the city continue to grapple with oxygen shortage, leading to anxiety among the patients and their relatives.

With no option, the relatives are seen running from pillar to post, or making frantic calls seeking help.

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

The demand for oxygen at the Government General Hospital (GGH) in Vijayawada used to be 2 to 3 KL per day. The supplier used to refill the requirement once in four days.

Demand soars

With the outbreak of the pandemic, the demand has gone up in the last one week.

“Now, 20-30 KL of oxygen is being used every day. More than 700 patients are undergoing treatment at the GGH. We are unable to predict the exact requirement. All that we can say is that the oxygen demand is very high. Unless, the supplies are stepped up, the situation is likely to go out of control,” says a senior doctor at the GGH on condition of anonymity.

Indian Medical Association (IMA) State general secretary Garlapati Nanda Kishore says that they have asked the IMA members and the medical fraternity to postpone all elective or planned surgeries. The medical fraternity has also been asked to give top priority to emergency cases, he says.

Noted cardiologist and IMA Vijayawada chapter secretary Karthik Tummala, who runs a COVID care centre, says there is a mismatch between supply and demand of oxygen.

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

Compared to the first COVID-19 wave, the number of patients on ventilator support and HFNCs has gone up beyond imagination now, 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 touched ₹750 during the first wave. It is now priced at ₹1,350, excluding transportation cost.

Even if the hospital is willing to pay, there are no supplies. Also, the patients’ bill on oxygen alone is in the range of ₹5,000 to ₹7,000 per day.

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 2:06:21 AM |

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