Hospitals in Kasaragod district are facing a severe shortage of oxygen, so much so that they have shifted their inpatients to other hospitals in neighbouring districts. Four patients from KIMS Sunrise Hospital Kasaragod were shifted to another private hospital in Kozhikode district on an emergency basis as they ran short of oxygen on May 10. "We knocked on every door, but there is shortage everywhere. We met the district collector, sent repeated requests tothe COVID-19 war room, and also contacted different MLAs in the district. We shifted four patients to Kozhikode on May 10. Four more patients, who require oxygen, are here, among whom one is a COVID-19 patient," said AV Krishnan, administrator of KIMS Sunrise hospital.
The hospital's daily requirement is 45 D cylinders, each with a capacity of 7,600 litres of liquid oxygen, but they hardly get 10 or 20 now. "We cannot take more patients, how can we risk their lives?" Krishnan added.
The situation is similar in Aramana hospital, where they have informed that oxygen will be over by May 11 evening, and that they will shift their seven critical patients to some other hospitals in Kannur or Kozhikode. They have got zero buffer stock. "On May 10, we ran from pillar to post to find some way to get oxygen. We went to meet the collector in his office and residence, waited outside for hours. Repeated requests were sent to the war room. We don't know what to do now. We are not getting oxygen from Mangaluru also," Dhanraj Nair, Manager of Aramana hospital, said.
EK Nayanar Memorial Cooperative Hospital in the district is also facing a shortage of oxygen, and have very limited quantity of buffer stock.
Aramana, KIMS Sunrise and many other private hospitals had been taking oxygen from Balco Air Product unit in Kannur and also from Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka. But due to high demand, the units are also facing a shortage and they were not able to provide the required oxygen for Kasaragod hospitals.
Krishnan said that they drive almost 80 km to the Balco plant in Kannur district, wait outside the plant just to get a few cylinders and drive back. "When these vehicles reach Kasaragod, our stock here will be only for 10 minutes. Again the vehicle will go to get more cylinders," he added.
According to Kasaragod health department, around 250 oxygen cylinders are required for the district daily, for private hospitals and government hospitals.
MLAs NA Nellikkunnu, CH Kunhambu, and AKM Ashraf (Niyuktha MLA) had written to the Dakshina Kannada deputy commissioner requesting them to continue providing oxygen to hospitals in Kasaragod. Collector Sajith Babu also wrote to Dakshina Kannada administration to provide oxygen, but they were not able to do that due to severe shortage.
"The oxygen plant in Baikampady of Mangaluru doesn't provide us oxygen as the Dakshina Kannada district faces a severe shortage; they might be told to provide outside only after satisfying the domestic need," Krishnan said.
Udma MLA CH Kunhambu said, "Karnataka government has instructed oxygen plants to send to other states only after fulfilling their requirement, but they haven't been able to meet their need, then how will they send here? Balco also couldn't provide us oxygen earlier because vehicles are waiting outside their plant to get oxygen. Patients are being shifted from the hospitals here."
Speaking to the media, he said that he has spoken to the Chief Minister and the Health Minister, and that some measures to beat the crisis will be taken at the earliest.
Though there have been reports of shortcomings of the health sector of Kasaragod district, and how the state has been neglecting the district, there were no great attempts from the government for improving the situation. For many decades, the district has been dependent on Mangaluru in Karnataka for better treatment. When Karnataka closed its borders at the beginning of coronavirus spread in Kasaragod district, many lives were lost without getting better treatment.
After that in September 2020 a hospital donated by TATA started functioning in the district exclusively for COVID 19 patients. But as per reports the hospital, it just functions as a COVID-19 first line treatment center. Kasaragod MLA NA Nellikunnu told TNM that no doctors were appointed exclusively to the TATA hospital. He said that no other good treatment facilities were arranged there by the state government.
Private hospital sectors in the district also lack speciality treatment; people largely depend on other districts or Mangaluru for treatment.