Pvt. hospitals press panic button

Patients needing oxygen support being turned away by hospitals citing insufficient supply

An official of the Industries department laughed off the suggestions of a shortage of medical oxygen in the city. The liquid medical oxygen (LMO) produced at Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) alone is enough to meet the needs of not just Visakhapatnam but of entire Andhra Pradesh, it is said.

However, the ground reality seems different. Some designated COVID hospitals are pressing the panic button hinting that their oxygen stock may dry up any moment and snuff out the lives of COVID-19 patients dependent on oxygen support. Relatives of patients allege that the position is bad even at the government hospitals and patients are being made to wait outside till a bed, with oxygen supply, is vacated.

An 18-month-baby girl was allegedly given oxygen support for about an hour in the ambulance outside a government hospital, and finally when she was taken into the hospital, she could not be sustained for long. Officials, however, deny there is any shortage in the supply of medical oxygen.

The officials had planned to add oxygen beds at three government hospitals when COVID-19 cases spiked last year. The pipelines for supply of oxygen to beds were laid but as there was a decline in the number of cases the proposal took a back seat. “These additional oxygen beds will be started soon,” DM&HO P. Suryanarayana tells The Hindu, when his attention is drawn to the issue.

Some private hospitals say they are facing problems in the procurement of oxygen and this is partly due to the surge in patients requiring oxygen beds.

“A private notified hospital, which has a sanctioned oxygen bed strength of 100, is being forced to admit nearly double that number in view of the rising cases. The hospital procures 100 cylinders and at the rate of consuming 10 an hour, their supplies would exhaust in 10 hours. This is forcing some hospitals to turn away patients requiring oxygen support,” according to sources. The ventilator beds and ICUs are also full most of the time.

District’s share

The availability of LMO for Visakhapatnam district from the production at Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) and a plant in Pharma City near Parawada will be around 160 metric tonnes, according to conservative estimates.

The daily requirement of medical oxygen in the city is about 50 tonnes, according to official sources. The total sanctioned oxygen beds in the district are: 456 in six ‘A’ category hospitals and 917 in 33 ‘B’ category hospitals, ICU beds 175 and 384, and ventilators 36 and 137, respectively. This apart there are oxygen beds in the government COVID hospitals like Visakha Institute of Medical Sciences (VIMS), King George Hospital (KGH) and the Government Hospital for Chest and Communicable Diseases (GHCCD).

Meanwhile, it is learnt that though a provision has been made for setting up of a total of 180 oxygen beds at the Government ENT Hospital, Regional Eye Hospital and Rani Chandramani Devi (RCD) Hospital, they could not be operationalised so far reportedly due to non-availability of oxygen cylinders.

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