Bihar’s health infrastructure has been facing a shortage of oxygen supply with several private hospitals turning away Covid patients citing the issue. The director of one of the state’s three dedicated Covid facilities, the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital, has now requested that he be relieved of his responsibilities as there is a “disruption” in oxygen supply and he will be held responsible if any patient dies.
With the number of active cases rising to over 40,000 from 500 over 20 days, ICU beds are occupied in other premier hospitals such as AIIMS, Patna, Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS) and Patna Medical College and Hospital. Over 30 private hospitals have been treating Covid patients but there are less than 3,500 ICU beds in the state.
While Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey has continued to play down reports of oxygen shortage at government and private hospitals in the last four days, NMCH medical superintendent Dr Vinod Kumar Singh, in a letter on April 17 to principal secretary (health), wrote, “I have been doing my duty (as medical superintendent) since July 21, 2020 but since a few days, the oxygen supplier’s stock has been taken under control and oxygen cylinders are being supplied to other hospitals from here. Despite my tireless efforts, there have been disruptions in oxygen supply (at NMCH) which threatens the lives of dozens of patients. I am afraid that if any patient dies because of oxygen shortage, I would be held responsible and action would be taken against me.”
However, Dr Singh continues to remain the NMCH medical superintendent after the state government assured to intervene in the matter.
Despite Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s clear instructions on Sunday to ensure uninterrupted oxygen supply to hospitals, several private hospitals continued to refuse treatment citing oxygen shortage.
However, a health department official said, “A good stock of liquid oxygen is reaching Patna by Monday evening. Oxygen plants are also asked to divert oxygen supply from industrial use to hospitals. All hospitals’ stocks of oxygen would be replenished in a couple of days.”