*Trigger Warning: Covid Deaths*
At the time of writing this, 25 reported patients have died due to a lack of oxygen in Delhi’s hospitals. More await a macabre (and ironical) dichotomous fate between going to hospitals to risk exposure (and the possibility of being turned away) or staying at home, hoping for their symptoms to subside.
Hospitals, our erstwhile safe havens, have been deceitfully reduced to helpless bystanders as they face constant shortages of crucial drugs, beds, doctors and oxygen. All affirmations and assurances by the government have been whisked away as India’s healthcare system crumbles away. Our last wall of defence now is a Maginot Line, and the virus, unlike the Germans, has already wreaked havoc.
In the background, social media is on the warpath, with constant updates of injections, oxygen cylinders and other available paraphernalia. There even are entire documents with details of doctors to call claiming to be updated hourly.
All in all, there is a cosy environment of gemeinschaft going on in India’s social media scene in stark contrast to the country, giving birth to a flourishing under-the-counter market of vaccines, oxygen and the like, posing an unannounced problem for the healthcare system.
A large proportion of these alleged messiahs are scams, cashing in on the fear of a pandemic, causing another problem which India has no time or resources to handle.
Oxygen is being advertised as some sort of a panacea and elixir-for-all for the virus. Whole cylinders are being distributed on streets, Whatsapp, everywhere, utterly irrespective of whether the recipients need it.
Delhi is hoarding oxygen, oblivious to its consequences. Oxygen is therapy and needs to be prescribed by a doctor. It can prove to be a double-edged sword. Delhi’s doctors have appealed against useless oxygen storage, but their auguries fall flat in the face of an impending misinformation crisis.
Let’s get some facts in, shall we? India’s daily production capacity for oxygen is a minimum of 7,100 tonnes, more than enough for current demand. On April 12, the combined demand across the country was 3,843 tonnes of oxygen. The Center allocated 6,822 tonnes to the 20 worst affected cases, far greater than their demand.
The problem doesn’t lie in the amount of oxygen. It is rooted in the transportation of oxygen. With this rapidly growing black market, oxygen supplies are delayed and do not reach hospitals. Instead, they are laying waste with individuals lying in wait for a desperate individual’s call.
The oxygen meant to be supplied to hospitals is being squandered away. A typical supply of oxygen travels from its facility to a hospital through countless intermediaries resulting in amplified opportunities for misuse. Out of a scheduled 700 mt, it received a mere 375 mt, sending hospitals to scramble for emergency stock.
Sanjay Gandhi once said that out of every rupee the government spends on welfare, the citizenry receives a mere 25 paise. It is evident that in these perilous times, for every rupee spent in a national emergency, the public receives none.
I am neither showering flowers on our government for handling the crisis nor downplaying the help some people need. In plain, unliterary terms, all I fervently hope is for Delhi’s hospitals to receive the oxygen they need and protect our walls of defence from a crisis they do not need.