A nightmare on repeat – India is running out of oxygen again

Twenty-five families in India’s capital Delhi woke up to the news on Friday morning that someone they loved had died in the city’s Sir Ganga Ram hospital, reportedly because corona-virus patients could not get enough oxygen.The hospital’s medical director said a severe shortfall had slowed the flow of oxygen to 25 of the sickest patients, who needed a high pressure, stable supply.

The tragedy came at the end of a week where several major hospitals in Delhi have repeatedly come close to running out of oxygen, which can help patients with the virus who need support with their breathing stay alive.On Tuesday, it took a desperate public plea from the chief minister and an intervention from the high court for the Indian central government to organise a late-night refill.An oxygen tanker eventually arrived at Sir Ganga Ram hospital on Friday morning, shortly after a dire warning that 60 more patients were on the verge of death.

But India’s rising wave of cases is pushing its healthcare system to the brink – from the country’s richest cities to its remotest corners.Maharashtra and Gujarat in the west, Haryana in the north, and Madhya Pradesh in central India are all facing an oxygen shortage.In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, some hospitals have put “oxygen out of stock” boards outside, and in the state capital Lucknow hospitals have asked patients to move elsewhere.

Smaller hospitals and nursing homes in Delhi are doing the same. Desperate relatives in several cities are lining up outside oxygen refilling centres. One plant in the southern city of Hyderabad hired bouncers to manage the crowd.

Many stricken with coronavirus are dying while they wait. Hospitals are struggling to accommodate breathless patients, or even keep alive those who were lucky enough to find a bed. Social media feeds and WhatsApp groups are full of frantic pleas for oxygen cylinders.

For a week, India has been reliving this nightmare on repeat, waiting for the terrifying moment when there is no oxygen left at all.

By: Maria Daisy Alexander [8 Alpha]

*************