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OPINION | Covid Pandemic: Oxygen crisis will be overcome soon

C-17 and IL-76 transport aircrafts of the Indian Air Force have started airlifting big oxygen containers to filling stations across India to speed up distribution of medical oxygen. IAF pilots are working against time to reach deadlines so that sick patients, in dire need of oxygen can be saved.

Rajat Sharma Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive
New Delhi Updated on: April 23, 2021 15:57 IST
OPINION | Covid Pandemic: Oyxgen crisis will be overcome
Image Source : INDIA TV

OPINION | Covid Pandemic: Oyxgen crisis will be overcome soon   

Unprecedented. Never in the history of Delhi-NCR had people witnessed such an acute shortage of oxygen. It is the worst of times that the national capital is facing presently. Top hospitals are in desperate need of medical oxygen and are being forced to ask patients to leave as the oxygen supply has reached a very low critical level.

On Friday morning, the famous Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi issued a terse message:  “25 sickest patients have died during the last 24 hours in our hospital. Oxygen will last another two hours. Ventilators and Bipap are not working effectively. Resorting to manual ventilation in ICU and ED. Lives of another 60 sickest patients in peril. Stop catastrophe. Need oxygen to be airlifted urgently. Governments please help. We have warned.” Hours later, an oxygen tanker reached the hospital on emergency basis.

C-17 and IL-76 transport aircrafts of the Indian Air Force have started airlifting big oxygen containers to filling stations across India to speed up distribution of medical oxygen. IAF pilots are working against time to reach deadlines so that sick patients, in dire need of oxygen can be saved.

On Thursday, the daily surge in fresh Covid cases reached 3,32,730, with 2,263 deaths recorded. Total active cases stands at 24,28,616.  There is panic among people in Delhi, Mumbai, UP, Maharashtra, and other states, as entire families are being tested positive. People in Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Patna, Nagpur, Mumbai are frantically looking for hospital beds, oxygen and vital medicines, which are in short supply and are being sold in the black market at exorbitant rates. Profiteers are fleecing relatives of Covid patients in most of the metros.

Almost all top hospitals in Delhi NCR like Max Hospital, Sir Gangaram, Apollo, Batra Hospital, Saroj Hospital, Shanti Mukand Hospital, Kailash Hospitals are desperately trying to source oxygen supply from different vendors. Kailash Hospital on Thursday decided not to admit new patients in view of low oxygen supply.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Thursday night, we showed how India TV helped Action Balaji Hospital in Delhi, when its owner made a desperate plea to me seeking medical oxygen. Dr Anand Bansal, MD, of this hospital, was desperate in his live interview, when he sought India TV’s help in procuring medical oxygen. He said, the hospital had 255 patients, out of which 220 are suffering from Covid. Of them, 81 patients are in ICU. India TV contacted concerned authorities, and within hours of the telecast of this appeal, an oxygen Reliance sent its tanker to the hospital to rescue the patients.

We did our duty, but I feel sad because I have been getting similar desperate SOS from doctors and hospital owners in Mumbai, Indore, Gurugram, Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Noida on a daily basis. I have been trying my best to convey their appeals to higher authorities, but the overall crisis is humongous. Oxygen and vital medicines are in short supply in almost all the metros and Covid-hit states. Doctors and nurses are toiling hard, round-the-clock to save the lives of Covid patients. Injection vials that used to cost Rs 500 during normal times is being sold in the black market by profiteers and hoarders at Rs 1 lakh. An oxygen cylinder worth Rs 500 is being offered at Rs 15,000-20,000. The sharks are moving around in the open trying to fleece the relatives of Covid patients.

India TV reporter Ruchi Kumar went to several oxygen refilling centres and some top hospitals in Lucknow and found the situation disheartening. There were hundreds of relatives weeping and screaming with their patients, seeking oxygen, which was in short supply. An oxygen cylinder that costed Rs 500-1,000 was being sold at Rs 35,000. The oxygen shortage is also acute in Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Palghar, Nagpur and Nashik. There were long queues of trucks, autos and tempos waiting for oxygen cylinders at refilling plants. At a big oxygen plant in Vasai, 700-1,000 cylinders used to be supplied daily during normal times. The plant used to work for 12 hours. Now, the plant is working round-the-clock, and yet buyers have to wait for three hours to get their cylinders.

The medical oxygen crisis occurred because very few people had anticipated that the second wave of Covid pandemic would have such a devastating effect on thousands of people, gasping for breath. Indian Railways, the Indian Air Force and major private sector corporates have now come forward to mitigate the sufferings of the common people. The Railways are running non-stop Oxygen Express, the IAF is airlifting oxygen tankers and containers, and private sector companies like Reliance are manufacturing medical oxygen at optimum capacity.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cancelled his election rallies in West Bengal, and is devoting most of his time to solve the crisis caused by shortage of oxygen and medicines. Already, some positive results are being seen. Doctors are optimistic about an improvement in oxygen supply within the next 48 hours. I surely hope that these efforts will bear fruit and the lives of thousands of people be saved. We should not be afraid of Coronavirus. All of us need strong will power, and if we take timely and proper treatment, get ourselves vaccinated, we will all come out of this danger, safe and strong.

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