Capital again: Senior doctor among 12 Covid patients dead as hospital runs out of oxygen

IN THE second such incident in the national capital this month, 12 Covid patients, including a senior doctor, died in Batra Hospital in South Delhi on Saturday after the private facility ran out of oxygen supply between 12.15 pm and 1.35 pm, doctors and officials said.

Most of the patients who died were unable to get continuous high-flow oxygen supply, they said. Among those dead is the hospital’s gastroenteritis head Dr R K Himthani (62).

Dr Sudhanshu Bankata, executive director of the hospital said: “The number of people succumbing due to lack of oxygen supply at the hospital was recorded at 12 by the end of the day. I am just hoping and praying that this situation does not arise anymore with our hospital or any other hospital in the next few days or ever again.”

The deaths come at a time when the Delhi High Court has been hearing the matter of oxygen shortage in the capital on a daily basis, and has repeatedly pulled up the central and Delhi governments on a range of issues — from not enough supplies reaching the city to tankers not being made available to transport it.

The latest incident also comes days after Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that “oxygen was available in adequate quantities earlier also and now it is being made available from many sources”.

On Friday, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre and the AAP government to keep political differences aside and work together to resolve the issue.

Following the deaths at Batra Hospital in Mehrauli, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “This news is very painful. Their lives could have been saved — by providing oxygen on time. Delhi should be given its quota of oxygen. We cannot see such deaths of our people any more. Delhi requires 976 tonnes of oxygen but only 312 tonnes of oxygen was given yesterday. With such low oxygen, how can Delhi breathe?”

Earlier this month, 20 people admitted in the critical care unit of Jaipur Golden hospital in Rohini died when oxygen levels dropped. The hospital had, before the High Court, blamed the Delhi government for the delay in oxygen reaching them.

According to authorities at Batra, they had been sending out SOS messages and reaching out to officials over the depleting levels of oxygen since 7 am on Saturday. It also approached the Delhi High Court over the limited supply.

There are 332 patients admitted in the hospital, including 307 who are undergoing treatment for Covid. Of the Covid patients, 230 are in need of high flow oxygen supply. Of those who died, six were in the ICU and others in the HDU and the wards.

“The problem is we are still not sure when the next supply will be provided. We have started sending out our teams to oxygen suppliers so we can have enough stock by Sunday. The hospital’s current requirement is 7MT while we are getting only 4.9MT. Officials from the Delhi government told us that the state has not received the adequate supply, which is why there has been a shortage,” Bankata said.

Dr S C L Gupta, the hospital’s medical director, confirmed that the deaths took place when the oxygen supply in the ICU had dropped.

Batra Hospital is among the several private institutions that have been facing an oxygen crisis over the last two weeks. Shortage of oxygen supply has crippled the healthcare infrastructure, with many patients dying outside hospitals and admissions being restricted despite a surge in infections.

“Sadly, what will now happen is that as a ripple effect of not having oxygen for one hour and 20 minutes, we may have a much higher death rate compared to the average over the next 24-48 hours. Let’s hope and pray that this torture and trial by fire ends soon,” Bankata said.

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