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‘It’s like a war’: Inside a Delhi hospital desperate for oxygen | India News

NEW DELHI: In his crowded emergency room in central Delhi, Ali Raza can’t focus too much on when the next oxygen delivery will arrive – 12 of his 20 doctors are sick with Covid-19 and patients keep coming.
“We always anticipate a second wave in April and May, but we never knew it would hit us so hard and so fast,” said Raza, director of emergencies and trauma at Moolchand Hospital. “They come panting and they all need oxygen.”
Outside the living room’s double doors, Gagandeep Trehan had just discovered that there was no bed or oxygen available for his uncle, who was struggling to breathe. Trehan had driven 192 miles (310 kilometers) to Delhi from the northern state of Punjab in search of a bed, his car filled with four oxygen tanks to keep his uncle alive. Six hospitals had already turned him down and he was about to get back in his car and test the number seven.
“I’m afraid he won’t live if they don’t treat him,” Trehan said. “I am willing to pay any amount for a hospital bed.”
Scenes inside a Delhi hospital provide a glimpse of despair across India, where the world’s fastest-growing wave of viruses now threatens to spawn new variants that undermine efforts in more developed countries to vaccinate the public and return. to normal life. India added more than 323,000 new infections on Tuesday, bringing its total above 17.6 million cases, second only to the United States.
As of Tuesday morning, Delhi had only 12 intensive care beds available in a city of more than 16 million people. Social media feeds have been filled with a seemingly endless stream of calls for beds, oxygen, Remdesivir, and more.
‘I hit the panic button’
Over the weekend, things got so bad at the 1,000-bed Moolchand Hospital, one of Covid’s main private facilities in the capital, that he took to Twitter to ask for oxygen. Noting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the head of the Delhi government, the hospital warned that its oxygen supply would be depleted in less than two hours for dozens of patients on life support.
Vibhu Talwar, managing director of Moolchand HealthCare Group, raised the alarm after his staff alerted him at 2 a.m. that oxygen supplies were running low.
“At 7 in the morning we were left with only an hour and I hit the panic button,” Talwar said. “Obviously, those hours between 5 a. M. And 8 a. M. They were the most stressful for me, my management team, and our doctors and nurses. We have about 150 Covid patients, there was a lot of panic, something that I hope we will never happen again ”.
But every day still carries the same risk, as hospitals in the Indian capital do not have a guaranteed oxygen supply. “We don’t know the amount or the time,” he said Tuesday.
With the political and financial capitals of New Delhi and Mumbai locked in, Modi has faced mounting criticism for his handling of the pandemic and his focus on state election campaigns during the escalating health crisis.
“When we were six months old and there were very few cases, the government could have built more hospitals with oxygen and more infrastructure,” said Raza, who heads the Moolchand emergency department. “Right now, the oxygen supply must continue, that’s the least the government can do for us.”
A week ago, the Delhi high court expressed “shock and dismay” at the government’s negligence and ordered the Modi administration to “beg, borrow, steal” to ensure adequate oxygen supply for hospitals. Since then, the government approved the allocation of funds to install 551 machines to produce medical oxygen within public health facilities “as soon as possible.”
Modi spoke this week with US President Joe Biden, who agreed to send vaccines and other supplies to India. His administration also announced plans to boost oxygen production and increase the availability of beds, while the Delhi government announced on Tuesday that it would import 21 ready-to-use oxygen production machines from France and 18 oxygen tanks from Bangkok.
‘Supremely contagious’
“The current wave is particularly dangerous: it is highly contagious and those who catch it cannot recover as quickly as was noted in the previous wave,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “All the hospitals at the moment are operating above their real capacity. The beds are full, including ICU beds. ”
In the Moolchand emergency room, a woman cried in pain next to the face-down body of a relative, while other family members watched silently. Raza has added more beds in every free inch of the emergency department, increasing its capacity from 16 beds to 25, but it is still not enough to meet demand.
“We try not to think about when the next oxygen tanker will come,” he said. “All hospitals are running out of oxygen. Regardless of the limited resources we have, we have to work with that. ”
Sanjog, manager of the Moolchand Hospital nursing unit, said that every day is a struggle to keep people alive.
“In this situation we have to fight for this,” he said. “It’s like a war situation.”

Times of India