Coronavirus: India faces oxygen scarcity as cases surge

Coronavirus: India faces oxygen scarcity as cases surge

  • Ankit Sethia spent a sleepless Friday night trying to procure oxygen for his 50-bed hospital on the outskirts of India’s commercial capital, Mumbai.

Only two of the four tanks of liquid oxygen at Mr Sethia’s SS Hospital and Research Centre in Bhiwandi were full. Forty-four of the hospital’s 50 beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients, many of whom needed piped oxygen from the tanks to breathe.

Each small tank was getting exhausted in six hours instead of the usual nine hours, because of the surge of patients. Both Mr Sethia’s dealers had run out of supplies.

Through the night, he called 10 dealers and four hospitals in and around Mumbai to ask for oxygen. None could help. Around 2am, he finally managed to get 20 large cylinders from another hospital, some 18 miles (30km) away. There were no vehicles available, so his ambulances did five trips through the night to get the cylinders. Four people now work round the clock at the hospital to procure supplies from any maker who can send a truck of liquid oxygen for the tanks or any dealer who can spare a cylinder.

“Now I have enough oxygen for the next 12 hours,” Mr Sethia said on Sunday evening. “We are firefighting every day. The battle is to get some oxygen anyhow.”