Published on April 23, 2021

AHMEDABAD: It is often a race against time for the city-based hospitals treating Covid-19 patients when they begin to run short of oxygen. While the majority of hospitals have hired vehicles just to ferry oxygen from refill plants continuously, doctors have also devised methods to help each other.

Dr Sunil Popat, director of Nidhi Hospital, said that hospitals often come to each other’s aid. “We have run out of oxygen a few times in the past month, whereas we have also reached out to our colleagues in distress,” he said.

On the supply side, compared to 75 metric tonnes (MT) that Gujarat used exactly a month ago, the number has shot up to 1,000 MT, a 13-times increase. “While production has been pushed up by another 100-200 MT, demand remains largely the same, leaving little surplus or elbow room,” said a senior state government official.

To put the figure in perspective, Ahmedabad city alone added 4,143 new cases in 24 hours. The city for the first time crossed 5,000 daily cases at 5,142, against which the number of discharged and dead patients was 999. “Even with a conservative estimate of 25% patients needing oxygen beds, over 1,000 will be out today scurrying for a bed,” said a city-based hospital owner. “Half of our energy is invested in managing resources alone.”

Dr Rohit Joshi, chairman of Aarna Hospital, said, “The scarcity of oxygen is why we often have to turn down patients even when beds are vacant.”

Dr Bharat Gadhvi, president of Ahmedabad Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (AHNA), said oxygen has become a life-and-death issue for several private hospitals. “Streamlining oxygen supply is today more important for patients than even remdesivir,” he said, adding that over 85% of hospitals treating Covid patients are entirely dependent on oxygen cylinders.

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