CHENNAI: Anand* was turned away from seven hospitals in Chennai on Saturday while trying to admit his 89-year-old grandfather. By evening, his grandfather, who was maintaining an oxygen saturation (SpO2) of just 65 per cent, had passed away. As the number of fresh Covid- 19 cases has increased more than 30 folds in just two months, Chennai and other districts in TN are beginning to face the pinch of oxygen shortage.
Over the last couple of days, there is a rise in the number of oxygen-requiring patients being sent away from hospitals. Rahul*, who admitted his Covid-19 positive uncle in a private hospital in Tambaram, learned that his uncle’s condition had worsened during the course of the day. “As he started developing breathing difficulties, doctors advised that he needed to be shifted to an ICU outside,” he said.
The hospital he was at, neither has an ICU nor a bed with oxygen facilities. Rahul is concerned as frantic calls to other hospitals are leading to dead ends and he awaits a meaningful lead from 104 volunteers. The crunch is felt severely in smaller hospitals. Many of these facilities have limited resources and fall even shorter on backup supplies.
When oxygen levels dip to reserve quantities, they warn patients to find better facilities. This happens, particularly because small hospitals, which do not have an inhouse oxygen plant, are at the whim of manufacturers and suppliers who transport it erratically. Saptharishi, a volunteer with Chennai Cares, told Express that a patient he helped was asked to move to a hospital with better oxygen facilities at 1 am on Saturday. “The patient’s vitals had declined suddenly.
The hospital was already running on reserve facilities and did not want to take a risk,” he said. While emphasising that it is too early to draw a trend, Saptharishi said hospitals are looking to shift out patients who require a higher flow of oxygen as they deplete the supply more rapidly.
Archana Shekar, another Chennai-based volunteer, told Express people are reaching a point where they have no option but to turn to government facilities. “Small hospitals are turning people away as they have limited supply and large ones are over-confident about their resources until they run out; and then give a short notice for patients to shift out.” *Names changed