India

T.N. hospitals staring at oxygen shortage

With patients requiring oxygen on the rise and delay in supply, private hospitals are facing a crunch

Many private hospitals across the State continue to grapple with a shortage of oxygen and delay in supply.

The demand for oxygen continues to be high in the State as fresh coronavirus infections continue to surge. As the number of patients requiring oxygen support is on the rise, private hospitals are facing a crunch.

“Trucks transporting oxygen do not come on time. It is very stressful. Back-up cylinders are there to manage for 24 hours,” an authority of a private hospital in Chennai said. “We are managing for the last few days. Today’s refill is late or not coming. We may not be able to take new patients,” he added.

Prithvi Mohandas, managing director of MIOT Hospital, said the hospital would run out of oxygen by Tuesday. “Our last supply was seven days ago. The regular vendor was told by the government not to supply directly. We gave our oxygen requirement twice to the government but have not got any response so far,” he said. He added that the hospital had increased the number of beds for patients with COVID-19 as per government instructions, but was not supplied with the required oxygen. “We have taken more patients who need oxygen. We have 40 patients on ventilatory support and 160 patients on oxygen support,” he said.

A few days ago, a private hospital in Kilpauk ran short of oxygen. “The hospital has been supplied with sufficient quantities of oxygen in the past 4-5 days. Today too, they have been given oxygen. In fact, they have received the largest quantity of oxygen in the city this week,” a senior officer handling the oxygen availability told The Hindu.

In Tiruchi, both government and private hospitals have sufficient supply of oxygen, lest the number of cases further increases. Private hospitals in the city have regular vendors from various industrial units present in and around Tiruchi who supply to them. They have also got in touch with some suppliers in case of emergencies.

A representative of Apollo Hospitals told The Hindu that while their supply was sufficient, doctors were instructed to postpone or suspend elective surgeries. The oxygen which would be utilised while conducting those surgeries, which are not emergencies, can be conserved, they said.

P. Ramakrishnan, president of Indian Medical Association, Tamil Nadu, said smaller private hospitals were facing oxygen shortages but were managing somehow. “Private nursing homes are managing by getting oxygen from nearby districts. The government can divert a small portion of oxygen that is supplied to government institutions to private nursing homes if there is surplus oxygen,” he suggested.

In Coimbatore, authorities of a private hospital in Saibaba Colony with 58 patients said on Friday that their oxygen supply could only last till the early hours of Saturday. When The Hindu brought it to the notice of the district administration, a senior official said that even though the supply of oxygen was ensured to the hospital on Friday morning, the demand seems to be on the rise. Additional supply of medical oxygen would be ensured by 8 a.m. on Saturday, the official said.

With the anticipated supply of medical oxygen from Sterlite Copper’s oxygen plant in Thoothukudi to Coimbatore district failing to come through due to technical issues in the plant, it is being sourced by hospitals from other means in Coimbatore district in the interim period, according to sources.

In Salem, a few private hospitals referred patients for COVID-19 treatment to government hospitals claiming a shortage of medical oxygen and bed facilities for treatment. Relatives of a patient admitted to a private hospital were allegedly asked by the hospital authorities to arrange oxygen cylinders themselves for treatment. The patients’ relatives frantically tried to get the cylinders.

On Friday, the Salem branch of the Indian Medical Association wrote to the District Collector that they have decided to stop admission at private COVID-19 care hospitals due to lack of adequate oxygen supply. The IMA decided to refer ICU COVID-19 patients to Salem GH due to lack of oxygen.

However, IMA members later said the district administration had assured them of adequate supply. N. Balamurugan, president of the IMA here, said, “patients are being referred primarily due to lack of beds. The bed capacity is almost full in the district at the moment and there is lack of adequate oxygen supply as well. While private hospitals require 15 kl of medical oxygen, only 7 kl is being supplied.”

He added that as the oxygen supply is being controlled by the government authorities, they aren’t able to ensure sufficient supply from regular vendors. District Collector S.A. Raman said the oxygen requirement was assessed and supplied accordingly. Of the 14 metric tonnes of oxygen produced at JSW industries, 8 tonnes is supplied to Salem, 5 tonnes to Coimbatore, two tonnes to Erode and one ton each to Tiruppur and Namakkal. He added that 2 tonnes was additionally arranged on Friday following requests from hospitals and additional four tonnes have been requested for Saturday for supply to hospitals in the district.


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