The team posted emergency messages on social media, as several hospitals in the capital ran out of oxygen supplies on Thursday night.
Hospitals in Delhi issued SOS alerts on Friday morning, warning that they had only a few hours of oxygen supply, while another unprecedented increase in cases of Covid-19 overwhelmed health systems in major Indian cities.
Hospital staff posted emergency messages on social media during Thursday and Friday, saying they were unable to meet demand and asking for government help.
Ganga Ram hospital in Delhi, which is treating more than 500 Covid patients, said 25 people had died in their wards in the past 24 hours, and warned of an impending crisis.
“The oxygen will last another two hours. Ventilators and Bipap [breathing support machine] do not work well. Use of manual ventilation in the ICU and Emergency. Probably bigger crisis. The lives of another 60 more ill patients at risk need urgent intervention, ”the hospital said in a statement early Friday morning. The tankers arrived at the hospital with oxygen two hours later.
Max Healthcare provider also posted an SOS message on Twitter saying it had less than an hour of oxygen supplies in two of its hospitals, while on Thursday night, Fortis Healthcare said its hospital in Haryana was “only 45 minutes of oxygen remaining “. Fortis asked authorities to allow an oxygen tank from Bhiwadi, south of the capital, to reach the hospital.
As infections brought hospitals to a breaking point, some areas have been accused of preventing oxygen tanks from reaching neighboring states.
Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia, wrote to the minister of health on Thursday to warn that supplies to six private hospitals had been completely depleted. He accused police and senior officials in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana of blocking oxygen-carrying tankers and delaying supplies.
Steelmakers, which produce oxygen, are increasing production to try to meet demand. On Thursday night, a train, dubbed the “Oxygen Express”, began its first voyage from a steel plant in Andhra Pradesh carrying seven tankers each loaded with 15 tons of liquid medical oxygen.
The virus has spread with unprecedented speed in India, with health experts blaming negligent measures, political failures and a more infectious variant. On Friday morning, India reported another record daily case load of 332,348 in the previous 24 hours. The news followed on Thursday that India recorded the highest number of infections in a single day in any country since the pandemic began.
As of Friday morning, almost 2,250 new deaths were also announced.
The crisis has brought India’s fragile health system to the brink. In western Maharashtra state, among the worst-hit areas, thirteen Covid patients died after a fire broke out at a hospital outside Mumbai in the early hours of Friday morning. Earlier this week, 22 Covid patients died in another hospital in the same state when the oxygen supply to their ventilators was interrupted by a leak.
Television and social media footage from across the country showed chaotic scenes outside overcrowded hospitals, with relatives pleading for their loved ones to be treated and sick people lying on the sidewalk because there were no beds.
A member of the Delhi legislative assembly made an emotional appeal from his hospital bed on Thursday. Saurabh Bharadwaj of the Aam Aadmi party spoke in a breathless voice through his oxygen mask, asking the government for help: “The hospital I am in has only three hours of oxygen left. When I remove this mask, it looks like a non-swimmer has been pushed into a pool and is short of breath, ”said Bharadwaj.
“We must give life. If we cannot provide even oxygen, our patients will die, ”Sunil Kumar Saggar, CEO of Shanti Mukand Hospital, told local media, crumbling as he spoke.
A Covid center equipped with 500 oxygen beds is expected to open in the capital to meet demand.
The government plans to make vaccines available to all adults over 18 as of May 1, but several states are facing shortages and the Serum Institute of India, which makes the AstraZeneca vaccine, has warned that it will not be able to meet its goal of producing Monthly doses of 100m at the end of May.