Private hospitals facing shortage of liquid oxygen

After the shortage of liquid oxygen at Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Institute (KIMS) came to light on Monday, many private hospitals in the city say they too are facing similar problems.

Some hospitals say the demand for liquid oxygen has shot up by nearly five to 10 times in the last few weeks as patients who are hospitalised with COVID-19 need more oxygen. R. Ravindra, president, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association, said many private hospitals in the city have been facing a shortage since last Sunday.

Vendors lack supply

Most of the mid-size private hospitals have mini bulk liquid cylinders that are refilled every day by agencies they are tied-up with. Prasanna H.M., managing director, Pristine Hospital, which is now a hospital designated entirely for COVID-19 patients, said their vendor for liquid oxygen was unable to provide them with the supply they need.

“The cost of liquid oxygen has increased and suppliers are not able to meet our requirements,” he said.

Information sought

On Tuesday, the government also woke up to the issue and asked the hospitals to submit data pertaining to the oxygen capacity at their facility. “In order to facilitate the required treatment for a COVID-19 patient, the oxygen supply chain, capacity of storage oxygen, and frequency of supply to the hospital from the distribution point need to be compiled to assess the capacity of the hospital for COVID-19 management,” stated Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust, in a letter to all empanelled private hospitals where 50% of the bed capacity has been notified for COVID-19 patients.

After visiting KIMS on Tuesday, Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar also acknowledged the problem. “We had not anticipated that the number of cases and demand for oxygen would be so high about two months ago,” he said, adding that the government was in talks to reduce oxygen supply to steel industries and instead divert them to hospitals.

Rising prices

On rising costs, Dr. Sudhakar said, “The government will regulate the prices if it is feasible at the State level. For regulating the cost of vendors from other States, we may have to approach the Centre.”

He estimated that demand had gone up four to five times. “I have directed the officials to make necessary arrangements to ensure an adequate supply of liquid oxygen to all hospitals in the State. Steps will also be taken to establish new liquid oxygen plants to meet the high demand,” he said.

According to sources in the healthcare sector, there are five main suppliers of oxygen in Bengaluru. However, one of them is reportedly having problems fulfilling orders, and all hospitals that were dependent on it have been affected. Many of them are now trying to get in touch with other suppliers to ensure that they do not run out of liquid oxygen.

V. Narayana Swamy, MD, Vagus Super Speciality Hospital, said the demand for liquid oxygen had increased by three to four times. “We can manage for the moment, but it is getting very difficult. There is a need for the government to intervene and monitor this situation so that no lives are at risk,” he said.

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