Oxygen shortage costs 14 livesThree Covid-19 patients died at Bhim Hospital and 11 at Corona Special Hospital in Rupandehi district on Wednesday.
Eleven Covid-19 patients, undergoing treatment at Corona Special Hospital in Butwal of Rupandehi district, lost their lives after the hospital ran out of medical oxygen on Wednesday afternoon.
The same day three Covid-19 patients died in Bhairahawa-based Bhim Hospital.
A total of 14 Covid-19 patients died due to oxygen shortage in Rupandehi district on Wednesday.
Most Covid-19 health facilities in Rupandehi have been reporting a shortage of oxygen supply since Tuesday.
News of oxygen shortage circulated on various media outlets including social platforms throughout Tuesday. The hospitals providing treatment to Covid-19 patients had appealed to the government bodies seeking help and informing them about the catastrophic results if immediate steps weren’t taken.
Some hospital administrators had themselves reached the District Administration Office in Rupandehi on Tuesday evening and informed the authority about the acute shortage of oxygen supply at various hospitals in the district. They had asked the authority to manage oxygen until Tuesday midnight. But no tangible help was forthcoming.
“Efforts are on to refill oxygen from Chitwan, Pokhara and Biratnagar excluding the production within the province. Liquid oxygen is also being ferried,” Shankar Pokharel, Chief Minister of Lumbini Province, posted on Facebook on Wednesday morning.
The Chief Minister came short of his promised efforts.
Until Wednesday evening, neither of the two hospitals had received medical oxygen.
Bhim Hospital had been facing a shortage of oxygen for the last few days. The health workers used the last of their supply of oxygen cylinders to buy some amount of time on Wednesday morning.
Within a span of eight minutes, three Covid-19 patients at the hospital lost their lives due to a lack of oxygen supply at 10:15am. The hospital hadn’t received medical oxygen supply until Wednesday afternoon.
However, the hospital administration refutes claims of a lack of oxygen being the cause of death of Covid-19 patients at the hospital on Wednesday.
“The patients’ families may feel that their loved ones died due to a lack of oxygen supply,” said Shakuntala Gupta, medical superintendent at the hospital. “But the hospital had received oxygen soon after the supply ended.”
“Earlier, I had informed the CM's Office, Health Ministry and local administration among all other concerned stakeholders about oxygen shortage,” he said.
However, one of the health workers at the hospital, talking to the Post on conditions of anonymity, said, “Covid-19 patients, who lost their lives on Wednesday, were in need of high flow oxygen supplement. But they did not receive high flow oxygen on time. We had to see patients dying in their beds helpless and hear their families’ grief-stricken wails.”
Gobind Gyawali, the administrative officer at the hospital, said the patients’ deaths took place while the borrowed oxygen cylinders were being replaced with the empty ones. According to him, the hospital borrowed 10 cylinders from Universal Teaching Hospital immediately after they ran out of oxygen supply at Bhim Hospital.
“We were unable to source oxygen from a private plant 5km away as the electricity supply was disrupted for two to three hours in the morning. We informed the ministry, district administration and others about the crisis,” said Gyawali.
He said the hospital has deployed 20-25 employees to take the cylinders to the plant, refill them before transporting them back to the hospital.
At the Corona Special Hospital in Butwal, the scene around 4pm on Wednesday was that of chaos and suffering.
The nurses at the ICU of the hospital started calling for help.
Medical Superintendent Dr Rajendra Khanal, other doctors and employees rushed to the unit. The flow of oxygen through the pipes had stopped. Five patients in the ICU died in a matter of a few minutes after the supply disrupted, the hospital later told.
According to a nurse deployed in the ICU, she witnessed patients gasping for breath for a lack of oxygen supply. “The patients died one after another as we had no oxygen to offer them,” the nurse told the Post.
A total of 11 Covid-19 patients—five in ICU and six in the emergency unit—died at the hospital on Wednesday. According to the hospital, the deceased were between 29 to 59 years of age.
“I had informed the health ministry, health directorate and Butwal Sub-metropolis about the death of five patients in the ICU as oxygen supply ended,” said Dr Bishnu Gautam, the information officer at the hospital.
According to Gautam, there is oxygen supply enough for only 13 of the total 32 patients kept in the High Dependency Unit beds at the moment. “Six oxygen cylinders have been supplied to the ICU by Wednesday evening. We have another 15. We can’t guarantee our patients’ lives. The situation has gone out of our hands,” said Gautam.
According to him, six patients died in the emergency unit of the hospital on Wednesday morning as the hospital failed to manage medical oxygen for them. “It is painful to inform the concerned authorities through media, social networking sites time and again. We hope to resume oxygen supply by Wednesday evening but there is no guarantee,” he said.
When oxygen supply ran out at Universal Teaching Hospital in Bhairahawa, on Tuesday, they had issued a notice warning the lack of oxygen might even lead to the death of the admitted patients. The hospital had asked for oxygen from Chitwan to alleviate the shortage till Wednesday afternoon.
The hospital issued a notice a second time the next day requesting the patients and their relatives to manage medical oxygen as the hospital would run out of oxygen supply after 4 pm. As soon as the cylinders began emptying on Tuesday, doctors and nurses had called various places for support.
According to the teaching hospital, it had oxygen supply till Wednesday evening after the local industry provided some cylinders.
According to the Public Relations Officer Sushil Gurung the shortage of oxygen had exacerbated as the three oxygen gas industries in the district have not been able to supply cylinders to the hospital.
“We have an agreement to supply 120 cylinders from Shankar Oxygen Pvt. Ltd., 150 cylinders from Lumbini Oxygen Pvt. Ltd. and 150 cylinders from HO Oxygen Pvt. Ltd.,” Gurung said. “We reached the district administration office on Tuesday night after the problem escalated but we didn’t get any response from them and the hospital started collecting 200 oxygen cylinders from Chitwan.”
“We had called the Home Ministry and asked them to send us oxygen cylinders. 190 cylinders arrived in the morning,” said Gurung.
Shankhar Oxygen industry also provided 40 cylinders, he said.
In the last 24 hours, 16 people have lost their lives in different hospitals of the district. The district reported 771 positive cases on Wednesday. The active cases in the district stand at 7,002.