BENGALURU: The shortage of oxygen support is the new issue haunting hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. Recently, 23 patients on oxygen support at Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), had to be shifted after the hospital ran out of oxygen supply, highlighting the problem in many hospitals across the state.
Medical Education Minister Sudhakar K has said the government will make arrangements to supply liquid oxygen to all hospitals in the state. However, the question remains as to why so many patients are in need of oxygen. Medical experts state there is an increase in the number of patients with comorbidities, and late reporting by patients has also pushed up the need for oxygen.
Dr K Sudheesh, anesthetist at Bangalore Medical College Research Institute (BMCRI) who checks on critical COVID patients at Victoria Hospital, said, “There has been a surge in the number of patients with comorbidities reporting to hospital. Their immunity levels are low, their bodies are already weak and their condition deteriorates swiftly, so they need oxygen support.
We have been advising patients with comorbidities to isolate themselves and avoid going out but it isn’t happening, so more cases are coming in. In COVID wards too, we tell patients to take utmost care even after they are discharged. However, at Victoria Hospital, we have sufficient supply of oxygen and are using it judiciously.”
Dr HM Prasanna, managing director of Pristine Hospital and president (elect) of Private Hospital and Nursing Association (PHANA), said that in the past week, the hospital saw 30 COVID patients being admitted, of whom 28 were in need of oxygen.
“Comorbid patients reach hospital with respiratory distress, but have no symptoms of fever or cough. Patients who get respiratory problems at an early stage come to us late, when oxygen is required. Of these 28 patients, none had got themselves tested, which is a worrying sign as their condition was bad. People with comorbidities need to get tested for early detection, especially now that camps are being set up everywhere.” The other factor contributing to a high number of patients in need of oxygen is late reporting due to social stigma, say experts.
Dr C Nagaraj, director of Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases (RGICD), said, “Fear of the stigma that their houses will be sealed and barricaded deters patients from reporting to hospital. We have seen many cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI), where patients feel breathless and yet don’t report due to the stigma. Those with comorbidities should not neglect these signs and reach hospital immediately.
"As it takes 5-7 days for the infection to set in and another two days for the report to come in, compounded by a delay of a couple of days in getting admitted to hospital due to fear, and the patient will suffer from acute pneumonia and need oxygen.”
However, Smitha Segu, nodal officer, COVID Task Force at Victoria Hospital, said, “The number of cases is increasing, and so is the number of patients who need oxygen. Earlier, the cases reported were 50-100, but now Bengaluru alone is seeing over 2,000 cases, hence a large number of patients with severe symptoms. This apart, respiratory viral infections like SARI and ILI are surging.”