The dearth of medical oxygen supply in the national capital is getting severe with each passing day. The lack of life material is killing patients indiscriminately.
A 35-year-old woman died inside an ambulance on the intervening night of April 22 and 23 because the oxygen supply of the ambulance carrying her got over midway to a government hospital. We were almost halfway through the hospital when the Oxygen cylinder was over. She died minutes later,” said Santosh, wailing husband of the deceased.
The family was carrying the patient for over four hours and searched a bed at four different hospitals, only to be turned by each. Seema leaves behind his 40-year-old husband, a 10-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter who live at JJ Colony, Bawana.
The ambulance service is hit hard by the Oxygen crisis. Drivers and owners told The Statesman they have to deny as many as 90 per cent of the patients amid a multifold upsurge in demand.
“It troubles us a lot that we are unable to cater the patients (who need oxygen) but what can be done? We don’t have enough supplies (Oxygen). For the last few days, I have been rejecting 80-90 patients,” said Khem Singh, who runs four ambulance vans in the periphery of RML and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
He also said that the demand for Oxygen support ambulance has ballooned by 900 times amid the ongoing surge of Coronavirus. “Earlier, we used to ferry 9-10 patients. Now, we get requests for around 100 patients each day,” Singh added.
The ambulance drivers also informed that the scarcity has fuelled black marketing of the Oxygen cylinders and their refilling immensely.
“The plants (Oxygen) are denying refilling so we have to source it from other vendors who charge us 3-4 times more than the usual price,” Manohar Prasad, another driver said.
“Refilling of a 10-litre cylinder used to cost us rs 500, but we are now charged more than rs 2,000 for them,” he added.
While the scarcity of Oxygen cylinders remains an issue for ambulance drivers, its exhaustion by the sick patients is furthering the crisis for them, due to long waiting hours before hospitalisation.
“It takes several hours to wait before the patient is taken up-up by the hospitals or at times, we have to travel multiple hospitals carrying the patient before their hospitalisation is finalised somewhere. During this process, the patients are kept on Oxygen and the whole cylinder gets exhausted in just one patient. The scarcity is such that we can’t stock multiple cylinders for further use,” said an ambulance driver named Dheeraj.
He also admitted that many patients die inside the ambulances during the course of waiting for hospitalisation and searching beds at different hospitals.
“Two patients died in my ambulance today after the supply (oxygen) ran out,” he added.