Twelve patients, including a senior doctor, died at Delhi’s Batra Hospital on Saturday afternoon after the private facility ran out of oxygen supply, PTI reported. Speaking to media after the incident, SCL Gupta, medical director of the hospital, said the head of gastroenterology department of the facility was among those who died.

“It’s a matter of shame that people are dying due to lack of oxygen in the Capital of the country,” Gupta said. “One can only imagine the plight in other places.”

Six of the patients who died were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit ward.

During a hearing on the coronavirus pandemic situation, Batra Hospital told the Delhi High Court that it ran out of oxygen for 80 minutes at 1.30 pm.

In a video message around 1 pm, Executive Director of Batra Hospital, Sudhanshu Bankata, said that they had run out of stock of the life-saving gas, NDTV reported. “Currently we are surviving on some oxygen cylinders, but that will also run out over the next 10 minutes,” he added. “The Delhi government is trying to help us out, but I believe their tanker is far away from our hospital.”

Later, Bankata said the next 24 hours would be “critical” and that more deaths due to lack of oxygen could not be ruled out. “Two hundred and twenty patients are currently on oxygen support,” he told NDTV.

The doctor who died has been identified as Dr RK Himthani. He had been admitted to the hospital for the last 15 to 20 days, according to PTI.

Soon after, Aam Aadmi Party MLA Raghav Chadha tweeted assuring that an oxygen tanker was reaching the hospital “within five minutes”. “Their regular supplier of oxygen has defaulted yet again due to alleged ‘lack of oxygen supplies’ and is being pulled up,” Chadha wrote.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed his sorrow. “This news is very painful,” he tweeted. “Their lives could have been saved... by giving oxygen, Delhi should be given its quota [of oxygen, so] such deaths are not seen anymore. Delhi required 976 tonnes and yesterday only 312 was given. How can Delhi breathe?”

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court said that hospitals should learn from their experiences and set up their own oxygen plants, PTI reported. A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli made the observation after another hospital, NKS Super Speciality, also raised the problem of oxygen shortage.

The incident came a day after the Supreme Court warned against “political bickering” between the Centre and Delhi government on supply of medical oxygen and other facilities. The court made the comment after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, claimed that there was no oxygen shortage. The Supreme Court was hearing of a suo motu case on the management of the coronavirus pandemic.

The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an acute shortage of basic facilities like the beds, ventilators, oxygen supplies and drugs as hospitals struggle to hold together the country’s healthcare infrastructure. On April 24, at least 20 coronavirus patients in Delhi died after the Jaipur Golden Hospital ran out of oxygen. A day earlier, 25 “sickest” coronavirus patients died overnight at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the city amid a last-minute scramble for oxygen. Similar tragic incidents have been reported in several other parts of the country.

On Saturday, India became the first country to record more than four lakh coronavirus cases in a day, as the tally rose by 4,01,993, pushing the overall count of infections to 1,91,64,969 since the pandemic first broke out in India in January 2020. With 3,523 deaths, the toll climbed to 2,11,853.

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