Private oxygen suppliers are struggling to meet the demand of cylinders from people in Siliguri, with some suppliers providing them only to families of Covid-19 patients and upon production of valid prescription from doctors.

Some Siliguri-based licenseholding distributors, which supply medical oxygen cylinders to private health facilities, said the demand had shot up by around 25 30 percent in the town in the past one week. “We are now getting around 200 calls from individuals for the oxygen cylinders daily. We have observed that many want to stock up the cylinders in panic for emergency use. If we sell them to anyone randomly, it will be difficult for people in actual need to get hold of one in the coming days. Therefore, we have started asking for valid medical prescriptions from people or a Covid-positive report,” said a distributor.

A recent notice issued by the department of health and family welfare, West Bengal government, has already stated that only Covid-19 patients in home isolation with other medical conditions will be entitled to buy medical oxygen with a doctor’s prescription to prevent hoarding, selling and transporting of oxygen cylinders without valid permits and doctors’ prescriptions.

A distributor said they now sell around 3,500-4,000 cubic meters of oxygen cylinders, which was around 2,500 cubic meters a few days ago. They believe many incidents of death of Covid-19 patients due to lack of oxygen in some parts of the country may lead to many people trying to stockpile the cylinders. At the same time, with the number of patients requiring oxygen going up, the demand, too, has risen.

“There is a drastic rise. The demand of oxygen has increased around 25-30 percent in the last one week,” he said. The ‘D’ type oxygen cylinders (46.7 liters) are generally supplied to private health facilities in bulk.

No shortage, say officials

According to officials, there is no shortage of oxygen in the town, and that they would take steps to see that there is no hoarding or black-marketing of the life-saving gas.

Administration takes over nursing home beds

The administration has requisitioned some beds at Dr Chhang’s Super Specialty Hospital at Matigara for treatment of Covid-19 patients. The state government had handed back two private health facilities, including Dr Chhang’s Hospital, following the declining trend of Covid cases after the first wave. The nursing homes were taken over for Covid-19 treatment last year.

Outgoing tourism minister Gautam Deb said 30 beds had been functional in the nursing home from today. However, sources said only 10 beds were given to the administration for now in “lack of manpower” at Dr Chhang’s Hospital. The department of health & family welfare has appointed Dr Pratha Pratim Paul as the superintendent of the hospital.

Demands had been coming in from several quarters, including the Left Front, to requisition private nursing homes as the number of beds for treatment of the patients was becoming inadequate with the rise in cases.

Covid bodies mix-up

A grief-stricken family found itself in a peculiar situation after a Siliguri-based nursing home gave them the body of another patient. The matter, however, was solved with the intervention of the administration.

A 62-year-old resident of College Para had tested positive for Covid-19 and died in the nursing home, but family members were given the body of another female patient (of 82 years), who had also tested positive for the virus today. Both the persons were residents of the same area. “We were given the body of another Covid-19 patient in the afternoon. We were shocked to see this. It was the body of a woman patient, because the nursing home authorities misplaced the bodies. We sought help from the administration and it acted promptly,” said a family member.

Sources said the body had already been sent to the crematorium at Sahudangi by then. “The relatives of the female patient should have been careful and should have verified things first. However, we called them and asked to stop the cremation,” said an official of the nursing home.