HYDERABAD: With hundreds of small hospitals too taking the plunge to treat Covid-19 patients, there has been an unprecedented demand for oxygen supply to these hospitals. Many of these hospitals contend that they face problem with with oxygen dealers on a daily basis as they prefer large orders to small ones seeking 10 to 30 cylinders.
“We are routinely facing difficulty in getting liquid medical oxygen refills. Almost every two to three days, we have a panic-like situation as the routine dealers are expressing helplessness in honouring the order for fewer number of large cylinders,” said the owner of a hospital in Warangal district, which has 10 oxygen and ICU beds for Covid-19 patients.
“We have to either buy an entire new cylinder for about Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 in black or ask patients to shift out or make arrangements for small cylinders. It is a very panicky situation,” he added.What further amplifies the problem is the fact that the dealers, who routinely supply oxygen to the hospitals, themselves are facing supply shortage across the districts.
“Earlier, they used to charge between Rs 700 and Rs 800 to refill a large cylinder. Now, the charges have gone up to Rs 4,000 and above. The dealers prefer to give it to larger hospitals. Small hospitals miss out,” explained another hospital executive from Mahbubnagar.
In Nalgonda too, a similar situation has been persisting for a while. With such erratic costs to bear, the hospitals are having no option but to put the burden on patients. They sounded an SOS to the district administration to regulate the supply.
“Currently, the districts officials call us everyday to know how much oxygen we used and how many patients we have to regulate per person supply and arrest wastage. The monitoring mechanism is very robust. However, why are they still putting the onus to procure oxygen and Remdesivir on us when the supply is poor? Why not assign one dealer to a bunch of hospitals in each area so that we do not have to compete with other hospitals,” added a doctor of a children’s hospital, which now treats Covid-19 patients.
A fortnight ago, a 50-bed hospital in Nalgonda was forced to borrow cylinders from other hospitals after a near calamity-like situation prevailed and the district administration has now roped in the police force to manage such panic situations.
“The oxygen demand is high, so the refilling frequency is higher. The small hospitals must be linked with local police who will ensure that suppliers don’t default. Otherwise, the situation can be tough for them with lesser bargaining power to manage refills,” added another doctor from Nalgonda. Owing to such fluctuations, hospitals are now procuring oxygen concentrators, cost of which again would be passed on to patients.