Bengaluru hospital runs out of medical oxygen, two patients die

The hospital had put out a request and had received help around 4 am, but two people had lost their lives by then.
People lined up with oxygen cylinders for refilling
People lined up with oxygen cylinders for refilling

Lack of medical oxygen resulted in the death of two coronavirus patients in Bengaluru’s Arka Hospital in the wee hours of May 4. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) Yelahanka health officer Dr Bhagyalakshmi confirmed the development to TNM. Further details are awaited. A total of 45 patients were said to be admitted in the hospital, while the number of patients needing medical oxygen is yet to be known.

According to preliminary information, the hospital had put out an SOS request on May 3 evening and the situation turned critical by 8 pm. By the time adequate help arrived at 4 am, it was too late. The deaths at Arka Hospital in Yelahanka come as at least three hospitals in the city sounded distress calls in need of urgent oxygen supply. In those three instances, hospital authorities said that they got help from government and private players before the situation turned fatal.

In a large scale tragedy due to the same issue, 24 patients on ventilators succumbed due to lack of oxygen supply at the Chamarajanagar Institute of Medical Sciences (CIMS) on May 3, which is less than 200 km away from Bengaluru.

With the crisis gripping Bengaluru and rest of the state, Chief Minister BS Yeddiyurappa held a meeting with gas manufacturers. "At a meeting with six leading oxygen manufacturers, the Chief Minister told them to ensure uninterrupted and timely supply of allocated quantities of the gas to hospitals," a statement by the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said.

The six companies — JSW Industrial Gases Ltd, Bhoruka Gases Ltd, Praxair India Ltd, Universal Air Products Ltd, Air Water India Ltd and Inox Belloxy Bellary — were told to reduce time taken to refill their tankers. Yeddiyurappa also told the manufacturers to use nitrogen and argon tankers to transport oxygen, and utilise services of LPG tanker drivers in case of emergency.

"The Chief Minister also instructed the concerned authorities, including police to provide a green corridor for faster movement of oxygen tankers to hospitals across the state," said the statement.

Officials manning toll gates within the state and at inter-state borders have been directed to clear movement of tankers without delay. The six manufacturers across the state have a combined capacity to produce 825 tonnes of medical oxygen per day.

The Union government has allocated the state 675 tonnes of oxygen per day, the statement said. In connection with this, the government has passed a circular to audity oxygen usage and asked all Deputy Commissioners and BBMP Commissioner to appoint camp officers in each oxygen refilling facility. They have been asked to keep a track of their daily receipt, oxygen balance stock on a daily basis.

Demand for oxygen has increased as Bengaluru being the epicenter of the caseload in the state had recorded 10 times the number of positive cases in April at 3.38 lakh compared to 31,886 cases in March.

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