Twenty people died at Delhi's Jaipur Golden Hospital, their lives ebbing as the hospital waited for oxygen to be replenished on Saturday, day five of a crisis stemming from an acute shortage of oxygen imperilling critically-ill Covid patients in India's national capital.
Every few hours, as it has been for much of the week, hospitals across the city and its suburbs, including Ganga Ram and Max Healthcare as well as smaller facilities, sounded the alarm about dwindling stocks on social media and other platforms. Desperate for help, some hospitals approached the Delhi High Court, which termed the mounting cases a tsunami.
A day after 25 patients died at the Ganga Ram Hospital, one of the city's biggest and most high-profile health facilities, the court told the Delhi government to give it one instance of oxygen supply being obstructed and declared, "We will hang that man."
"We will not spare anyone," the bench of Justices VipinSanghi and RekhaPalli added while hearing submissions by Maharaja Agrasen Hospital, Jaipur Golden Hospital, Batra Hospital and Saroj Super Speciality Hospital over the shortage of oxygen for treating seriously-ill COVID patients.
The SOS messages from various hospitals ran in a loop as it were through the day, pointing to a recurring crisis with no immediate end as Delhi logged 24,331 fresh COVID-19 cases and 348 deaths on Friday, according to the latest health bulletin. At the Jaipur Golden Hospital in southwest Delhi's Rohini locality, the worst fears had come true and fears were the disaster could repeat itself
"Next impending oxygen crisis in Jaipur Golden Hospital. Over 200 lives at stake if liquid medical oxygen is not supplied by 9:00 PM tonight," the hospital tweeted at 7.15 pm.
Earlier in the morning as news came in of its 20 patients dying through the night, Medical Director D K Baluja told PTI, "Oxygen pressure has dipped as we are running out of stock."
Hospital officials added that over 80 per cent of the 200 patients in the hospital were on oxygen support and 35 were in the ICU.
At Ganga Ram hospital, authorities struggled to avoid a repeat of the earlier day's tragedy. The hospital requires a minimum of 11,000 cubic metres of oxygen daily but was left with just 200 cubic metres when a tanker with 1.5 tonnes of oxygen arrived at 11.35 am, officials said. Moolchand Hospital, a big hospital in south Delhi, said at 7.05 am that it has less than two hours of oxygen supply left.
"We are desperate have tried all the nodal officer numbers but unable to connect. Have over 135 COVID pts with many on life support," it tweeted.
In a ripple effect, Max Hospital in Gurgaon said it too was running out of oxygen
"SOS – Less than 2 hour's Oxygen supplies at Max Hospital Gurugram and attached Dedicated Covid Centre. Over 70 covidpts admitted across. Supplies expected at 10am diverted," Max Healthcare said on Twitter at 11.20 am. The medical director of LokNayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Suresh Kumar said the facility's oxygen stock can last up to eight hours. It is likely to be a few days before the crisis is resolved, he said. Some hospitals reduced their hospital beds.
The GTB Hospital cut the number of beds from 986 to 700 but did not ascribe any reason. On Friday, the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital had reduced beds from 600 to 350 citing oxygen shortage.