PATNA: A 2011-batch IAS officer has led an eight-hour ‘operation oxygen’ and saved the lives of 250 Covid-patients in Bihar’s Purnia district. On May 12, the district’s medical oxygen supply to hospitals was hardly enough to last a day.
At stake were the lives of 250 Covid patients, who were on oxygen support, 40 of them on the ventilator. It was around 7 am when IAS officer Rahul Kumar, District Magistrate of Purnia, got an SOS on the abysmal level of oxygen available in hospitals. “Those were the toughest few hours,” says Kumar. “We had to optimise internal resources and I had to alert some friends and colleagues posted in Katihar, Kishanganj and Supual as DMs and members of my dedicated district teams,” he recollects.
Upon reaching the Sadar Hospital, he was told that the lone oxygen plant in Purnia had developed snags and supply had not reached from Bhagalpur. “I saw patients on oxygen support. I was told many were wandering around with empty cylinders. This was the time when I had to work on a war footing.” Kumar converted a part of the Sadar Hospital into a ‘war room’ and contacted neighbouring districts. Everybody got to know about it and panic spread.
The DM’s first task was to stop rumour-mongering and panic. Kumar started making urgent appeals to all “Unused oxygen cylinders were rushed to Purnia from subdivision hospitals of the city.” DMs of neighbouring districts rushed to help. The director of Mata Gujari Memorial Medical College in Kishanganj, Dilip Jaiswal, sent the first 10 cylinders and then 30 jumbo cylinders to Purnia. This was followed by supplies from Katihar, Kishanganj and Supaul. The DM also contacted other hospitals in Purnia and arranged 100 cylinders. “All these were provided