Hospital authorities said that 50 cylinders that were sent at midnight as a response to a distress call were not enough to sustain the high pressure required for critical patients.

A health worker standing in front of a line of oxygen cylinders arranged outside a hospitalImage for representation | PTI
Coronavirus COVID-19 Monday, May 03, 2021 - 12:54

As many as 24 coronavirus patients who were on ventilator support died in the wee hours of Monday due to interruption of medical oxygen supply at the Chamarajanagar Institute of Medical Sciences (CIMS) in Karnataka's Chamarajanagar district. This tragedy comes two days after two patients in Kalaburagi died in a private hospital after there was a similar interruption in oxygen supply. 

Speaking with TNM, Dr GM Sanjeev, Director of CIMS said, “Due to shortage of oxygen between 12 midnight to 2 am, patients needing high flow oxygen in invasive and non-invasive ventilators have died. Out of the 24 persons who have died, 18 were suffering from comorbidities and had long-standing problems. Right now we are requiring 350 cylinders a day, an increase from 35-40 cylinders daily, and our vendors are not able to match the increase in demand. We faced a major shortage due to delay in supply affected by the widespread increase in demand.” 

“We depend on liquid oxygen supply from Ballari or Bengaluru as these are the only two places with facilities to manufacture oxygen. But even for refilling cylinders, we have to depend on private vendors from Mysuru. This issue can be solved if we have a bottling plant in our district itself and don't have to depend on Mysuru or other districts for refilling,” he added.

Dr Sanjeev said that 50 cylinders that were sent at midnight from the Mysore Medical College as a response to the distress call were not enough to sustain the high pressure required for critical patients.

A senior Karnataka-based IAS officer, on condition of anonymity, said at present the state government is lacking leadership compared to the first wave of the pandemic.

“We don’t have decisive IAS officers like last time from the top to mid-level. Vijay Bhaskar, Chief Secretary has retired. Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey, War Room chief Munish Moudgil and Ajay Seth in charge of surveillance have been taken off COVID-19 duties. So we don’t have anyone to guide us,” the officer said.

“Lack of transparency and ground rules set by the state-level leadership had led to a war of sorts between districts for oxygen and medicines like Remdesivir. While there is a state-level quota of oxygen, there is no district-level quota which is leading to these sorts of mishaps. Medical oxygen is a scarce resource and there is a shortage at this point but the state-level leadership is not able to increase the union government cap of 820 metric tonnes. Above this interference of MLAs and ministers is making it worse,” the officer added.

The crisis of medical oxygen is not unique to Karnataka and is prevalent in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and other populous cities facing the brunt of a lethal second wave and subsequent demand for medical oxygen.

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