INDIA GASPING FOR BREATH
■ 24 DIE AS OXYGEN LEAK CUTS OFF SUPPLY TO 60 VENTILATORS ■ DELHI COURT: BEG, BORROW OR STEAL TO ARRANGE OXYGEN ■ INDIAN AIR FORCE DEPLOYED TO AIRLIFT OXYGEN CYLINDERS
Desperate hospitals in the Indian capital of New Delhi yesterday mounted cries for help on social media, as their medical oxygen supplies for hundreds of criticallyill Covid-19 patients threatened to run out in hours.
Perturbed by desperate please of hospitals, the Delhi High Court told the government to “beg, borrow or steal “to arrange oxygen”.
The distressing appeals came on a day when a 30-minute leak from an oxygen tanker at Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik cut off supply to the ventilators of more than 60 critically-ill patients – leading to the death of 24 of them.
Rathi Hospital in New Delhi was among those who took to Twitter to make a direct appeal to the Prime Minister, Delhi Chief Minister and Indian health minister. “No oxygen supply in our hospital. We have 78 patients. No helpline number taking call instead they are ignoring and cutting our calls [sic]. We have been calling since morning.”
Similar appeals from other hospitals and heart-breaking pleas of help from family of patients across India flooded social media yesterday, as Covid-19 infections touched a new record of 2,95,041 cases.
Some were less subtle on the face of mounting tragedy. Mayo Medical Centre – a prominent hospital in Lucknow city – put out a notice at its entrance, urging family members of patients with oxygen support to immediately move them out to other hospitals, since the hospital had not received oxygen supply despite repeated requests to the state and federal governments.
The federal government planned to increase supplies of medical oxygen in the coming days, with Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan saying the government was also evaluating applications from suppliers overseas for oxygen imports, even as it roped in the Indian Air Force to airlift oxygen cylinders to the national capital region.
High Court’s strong rebuke
But the situation prompted a furious Delhi High Court to question whether human lives “matter for the government”.
Demanding why the central government was “not waking up to reality” of crippling shortage of oxygen, judges at the court said: “The citizen can only fall back on the state. It is the responsibility of the government. Beg, borrow or steal, it is your job. You are concerned with the industries while people die... That means human lives doesn’t matter for the government.”
The response came while the court was hearing an appeal by the Max group, which had flagged oxygen crisis in two of its hospitals in Delhi. The shortage also fuelled a wave of oxygen sub-nationalism – where a Haryana minister threatened to deploy armed guards to secure oxygen delivery to its own hospitals first before supplying to Delhi.
RATHI HOSPITAL @HospitalRathi No oxygen supply in our Hospital. We have 78 patients. No helpline number taking call instead they are ignoring and cutting our calls. We have been calling since morning. Please share this post as much possible.
@ArvindKejriwal @drharshvardhan @narendramodi @MoHFW_INDIA @PMOIndia