Hospitals stop admitting COVID patients due to oxygen shortage

Published On: May 14, 2021 10:00 AM NPT By: Pabitra Sunar

KATHMANDU, May 14: The number of COVID patients is increasing across the country but hospitals are not able to provide services as per their capacity due to lack of oxygen. With the government authorities enforcing a quota system on oxygen supply, the number of patients that hospitals are admitting has been declining.

The Patan Academy of Health Sciences had expressed commitment to treat 300 COVID patients. The hospital has admitted only 170 people due to lack of oxygen. According to the Director of the hospital Dr Ravi Shakya, 80 percent of the admitted patients need oxygen. Some of them are in need of high flow oxygen as they cannot supply oxygen. He said that the hospital has reduced the number of patients to 170. He said doctors administered oxygen with their hands to some patients due to lack of oxygen.

Similarly, TU Teaching Hospital has the capacity to admit and treat 400 patients. But the hospital has not been able to increase the number of beds due to lack of oxygen. The infected are waiting their turn on the hospital corridor and the premises. According to the hospital, there are 50 such patients waiting for their turn now. Ram Bikram Adhikari, information officer of the hospital, said that some patients die while waiting due to lack of oxygen.

A Kathmandu-based Himal Hospital has stated that if oxygen is supplied as per the requirement, 400 patients can be treated at one time by making necessary arrangements of beds. At present, 329 infected people are being treated at the hospital. 50 of them are in ICUs. The hospital has stated that the problem has become complicated after the government set a quota of 40 cylinders even though 300 cylinders of oxygen is required daily. A hospital source said that no new patients were admitted in recent days due to lack of oxygen.

The country's largest government hospital, Bir Hospital, also said it could not expand COVID-19 wards in a new surgical building due to scarcity of oxygen. The hospital also reduced the number of patients admitted since Thursday. Similarly, the National Trauma Center has stated that it is not in a position to admit any new patients due to the same reason. 

“Hospitals are stressed due to oxygen shortage,” said Dr Dhruba Gaire, senior physician at Bir Hospital. “Some patients who came to Bir Hospital through various hospitals died immediately due to oxygen shortage. “When there is no oxygen, small hospitals send their patients to big hospitals.” “The oxygen level of such patients goes down in the ambulance. Such patients are forced to lose their lives as soon as they come to us,” he said. "Hospitals have stopped admitting patients who need oxygen." Many government-run COVID hospitals in the valley have indicated that COVID patients die quickly due to lack of oxygen.

The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), on the other hand, has stated that it is managing the demand by bringing oxygen from major cities outside the Kathmandu Valley. Mahendra Shrestha, an expert at the ministry, said that oxygen was brought in helicopters from Biratnagar and Pokhara on Thursday. The Ministry said that the demand could not be met as hospitals in the valley could not produce enough oxygen from its plants due to lack of electricity, maintenance and labor.

"Even the richest countries in the United States and Europe could not meet the demand for oxygen after a large number of people got infected at the same time. There is no way that Nepal could do it," said the Ministry's Spokesperson Jageshwar Gautam. To manage the oxygen shortage, the government has directed private hospitals to install oxygen plants within 15 days. However, private hospitals have said that it is not possible to install new oxygen plants within 15 days.


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