Distress calls by hospitals in Bengaluru seeking urgent supply of oxygen have increased in the past few days. On May 3, Medax Hospital, a private hospital located in Bengaluru’s RT Nagar, and Rajarajeswari Medical College and Hospital located on Mysuru Road, said that their oxygen supplies can last only hours. On the afternoon of May 3, Medax Hospital said that it has oxygen supply only till 5 pm and the Medical Director wrote to a patient asking them to find arrangements at a different hospital.
“This is to inform you that we are running out of oxygen supply, we are unable to collect oxygen care for the patient. We have been informing since 01/05/2021, 6:00 pm. We will shortly run out of oxygen by 03/05/2021 5pm. Kindly arrange for beds in different hospitals. We regret this situation. And request you to co-operate in view of patient well being,” the letter, written by Dr Srihari Shapur, Medical Director of the hospital, states.
A photograph of the letter to the patient was tweeted by multiple Twitter users, including former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, calling upon the Bengaluru civic body and the state government’s attention. Not only Medax, Rajarajeshwari Hospitals located on Mysuru Road, which has around 100 patients, too issued a distress request seeking medical oxygen.
Shortly after, TNM learnt that Shifa Hospital rushed some cylinders to both hospitals. At 8 pm on Monday however, Medax was still awaiting more oxygen cylinders and further assistance as promised by Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Ashwathnarayan, who is the chief of the state-level task force for COVID-19.
The MD of Medax hospital told TNM that they have received around 15 oxygen cylinders. Rajarajeshwari Hospital told TNM that they have received 20 oxygen cylinders after the intervention of Deputy Commissioner of Ramanagara district, which is located nearby. At the time, though the hospitals had received cylinders after their SOS, they say this might not be enough till a proper continuous supply is established to keep up with the demand.
“I have been getting a lot of assurance from a lot of people since I asked for help. Shifa Hospital (Shivajinagar) has given me around 20 cylinders. I need four liquid oxygen dura cylinders and 60 jumbo cylinders daily. Till now we were meeting this from two distributors, one based in Hosur and one in Peenya. But since last week, we are having interruption in our supply as the vendors are not able to cater to the increase in demand,” MD of Dr Srihari Shapur of Medax Hospital told TNM.
He added, “Other than oxygen, shortage of cylinders is an issue as we are not able to procure them. Before we could manage with 10-15 cylinders, but now for the past month we have been requiring 180-200 cylinders. Till today, we were able to manage.”
Mercy Mission, which has been answering hundreds of SOS messages for oxygen and COVID-19 drugs, had told TNM that they received a distress call on April 29 from Railway Hospital in Bengaluru, which said it was down to the last three hours of its oxygen supply and 50 COVID-19 patients, including 15 in the intensive care unit (ICU), were at risk. A team of volunteers then helped shift some cylinders to the hospital.
This comes on a day 24 COVID-19 patients died due to an interruption in oxygen supply at Chamarajanagar Institute of Medical Sciences (CIMS) in Karnataka's Chamarajanagar district. The Director of CIMS earlier told TNM that because of a shortage of oxygen between 12 midnight to 2 am, patients needing high flow oxygen have died. Out of the 24 who have died, 18 were suffering from comorbidities and had long-standing problems. The Karnataka government has ordered a probe into the incident and has asked for an inquiry report in three days.
The first alarm bells were rung by Bangalore Institute of Gastroenterology (BIG), located in Jayanagar in the city, two weeks ago. Doctors at the hospital decided to transfer out three of the eight COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital, owing to shortage of oxygen.