Ground Report: India is currently witnessing a shortage of oxygen cylinders and hospital beds in the wake of the COVID-19 second wave

Saturday, April 24, 2021

/ by mansuralisaha


The News Cover: The second wave of COVID-19 in India is deadly. 20 lakh+ people were tested positive in the first half of April itself. We’ve been informed that people are having trouble breathing and oxygen cylinders aren’t available. 

So firstly we’ll go to a local oxygen supplier and see the kind of demands they are receiving, and are the demands fulfilled? Let’s go and find out. How many people visit you these days? Sir, earlier the number used to be 3-5 a day. But nowadays, 50-70 people come by. What is the demand like? Are you able to fulfill it? 

Until now we have been able to fulfill all demands and haven’t sent anyone back disappointed. But we do not have any more cylinders. Oxygen is still available with us, which we are providing to every customer. We are not sending anyone back empty-handed. As you can see his phone is constantly ringing, and these must be the demands for oxygen. Yes. 

All of these callers demand oxygen. My phone rings throughout the night. And if one of our regular customers calls at night and requests, then we ensure we provide it to them that very night. If they cannot make it, then we deliver it to them. I have to get a refill. Sir, I can refill it for you, I have that facility. 

If you stop by, you’ll get it straight away. Thank you so much. Even if you don’t (pay), I will still get you the oxygen. Thank you so much, sir. Alright. Are you able to sleep at night? A little bit, whenever possible. Our phones ring all night anyway. We try to guide them in any way possible. And we even deliver to those who are very desperate. we deliver it to them. 

Why are you here at this shop? I am here to refill my cylinder. Our cylinder is empty. For now, he is taking oxygen from another cylinder. We have made our house an ICU because he did not get a bed. Hospitals have made packages like Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000 a day to get the machines at home... that is what we opted for at the end of the day because we did not get a hospital bed. 

What do I tell you? We are getting so many calls that we are not able to receive them. Landlines are constantly ringing. All our lines are overwhelmed. I don’t know what the Government is doing, all we know is that there are 20 people waiting for these cylinders. 

Ever since the pandemic began, the government was supposed to set up 150 new oxygen plants however they have been heavily delayed. It took the government 8 months just to invite bids. Even today many of those plants aren’t functional. But if you watch news channels right now, it feels like the government is absolved of all the blame. There’s news of people dying one after the other due to lack of oxygen. Our editor called and we have now reached the LNJP Hospital. 

Let’s see what’s happening. What has happened? Why are you here? My brother is inside. Okay, what happened? He has breathing problems. He was not able to breathe so we shifted him to the ward. There’s so much trouble getting an oxygen cylinder, that most people are dying in the causality. It’s the worst situation. 

Oxygen is an issue right now. Today, it’s still better but the last two days were terrible. Yesterday we were in this emergency room, then we shifted to that one. We shifted to the second one. Then my mom was provided with oxygen. She got it in both the emergency rooms. Did the hospital provide you with the oxygen cylinder or did you bring your own? No sir, I got one on my own. This one, that lying here. - This is yours. - Yes. I returned the first one I took on rent, and then I got another, a personal one. 

I spent the whole night giving oxygen to my mother through this cylinder. The situation is really bad. People don’t have oxygen cylinders. There are 10 people for one cylinder. Can you understand? The ratio is 1:10. One cylinder is providing oxygen to ten people. All the patients that are coming are critical, with low percentage levels of oxygen. They desperately need oxygen. We can’t remove the oxygen from those who are already getting it. There are more people and limited resources. Hence, there are more deaths. One doctor comes and announces...

 “Those with oxygen levels above 70, don’t come to me. And those with levels below 30, accept the defeat.” What does “People with oxygen levels 70” mean? It means that he cannot do anything. That he has given up. There’s a lady lying on the stretcher. It looks like she needs oxygen but it won’t be ethical to go and ask. My wife is inside. Oh, your wife is admitted, and they are not letting you inside?

 No, they’re asking me to sign some papers. If I sign them, tomorrow they might hand me over the corpse. This is happening with everybody here. Nobody is returning healthy. After 2-3 days of admission, they ask relatives to sign and hand them over the corpse. The doctor divided one cylinder into 3 people, then 6. He made 3 people have oxygen from one cylinder? Yes, and later he made it 6 so that everyone gets a little.

 After some recovery, he sent them into the ICU. There were at least 7-8 deaths in front of me due to lack of oxygen. There was no oxygen. The doctors are doing their jobs well. They’re giving 6 people oxygen from one chamber so that they can be saved. And if the beds are empty they’re sending information. 

But the main crisis is off the oxygen. People are standing in lines. Those who’re able to arrange oxygen and the cylinder on their own are managing just with the ventilator. But those who don’t have the facility, how can the doctors help them? I’ve been noticing the doctors working 24 hours continuously, they’re not even sleeping. It’s all closed sir. - Are the beds full? - The beds are full. Where have you come from? Ghaziabad.

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