India COVID crisis: ‘Lack of oxygen killed him, not the virus’

Death of a doctor due to oxygen shortage at prominent Delhi hospital underscores India’s unfolding coronavirus crisis.

New Delhi, India – On Saturday afternoon, 12 coronavirus patients died at New Delhi’s Batra Hospital after it ran out of medical oxygen. Among the dead was Dr RK Himthani, head of the gastroenterology unit at the same hospital.

The private hospital in southern Delhi was among several in the Indian capital and across India to sound an alarm over a crippling oxygen shortage as they struggle to cope with patients pouring in, needing ventilators and ICU beds.

For the past week, Batra Hospital’s administration said they had been facing the same shortage, but oxygen arrived minutes before running out. On Saturday they ran out of luck.

‘There came no help’

Batra Hospital’s Executive Director Dr Sudhanshu Bankata told Al Jazeera they raised the first SOS alarm at approximately 7am on Saturday, but “there came no help from anywhere”.

As the day progressed, the oxygen levels in the critical care wards kept plummeting.

Doctors and paramedical staff in the ICU, located on the fifth floor of the hospital in southern Delhi, went to work with “ambu bags” (manual resuscitators) to keep the patients alive, fighting against time.

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