At least three hospitals in Delhi on Sunday sent out desperate pleas for oxygen as their stocks of the life-saving gas dwindled during the spiralling coronavirus pandemic.

The Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research in south Delhi said it had liquid oxygen supply only till 5 pm and sought immediate help. The hospital said on Twitter: “45 COVID patients admitted. Need liquid oxygen supply by 5 PM. Help!!”

After the hospital sought support, Aam Aadmi Party leader Raghav Chadha said that the government was rushing 20 D-type oxygen cylinders right away. “It will suffice for a few hours – by then our emergency vehicle carrying liquid medical oxygen will reach to replenish their oxygen stocks,” he said.

Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital in Malviya Nagar said that it had around 80 patients, including some infected with Covid-19, PTI reported. Fifteen patients were newborns. “There are 50 people, including four newborns, on oxygen support,” an official from the hospital said on Sunday afternoon. “They are at risk.”

“It has become a daily firefight in the absence of a continuous supply,” the official said, adding that the hospital depends on oxygen cylinders from a private vendor since it does not have a storage tank for liquid oxygen. “We require around 125 oxygen cylinders a day.”

Chadha said the government had sent five cylinders and added that it was “doing everything possible to avert any untoward incident”.

Triton Hospital in Kalkaji also sought help and said that they were struggling to arrange oxygen for its neonatal intensive care unit. “We have been scrambling for oxygen for over a week,” Dr Deepali Gupta from the hospital said. “A major tragedy may occur if a continuous supply is not ensured soon.”

Chadha said the government had helped this hospital as well. “Hospital officials are on their way to collect it,” he wrote on Twitter. “Sincerely hope that oxygen supply chains of hospitals get restored quickly for this fire-fighting is unsustainable.”

Oxygen crisis

Amid an unprecedented surge in cases in India, the country’s healthcare infrastructure is under severe strain. There is a shortage of beds, ventilators, medicines, coronavirus vaccines and oxygen supplies. India has reported more than 3 lakh daily cases for over 10 days.

On Saturday, 12 patients, including a doctor, died in the city’s Batra Hospital after oxygen ran out for more than an hour at the private facility. This was the third such incident within a week’s time. 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.

Taking note of the deaths at Batra Hospital, the Delhi High Court directed the Centre to provide Delhi 490 metric tonnes of oxygen, the quota allocated for the city. The court observed that since the allocation for Delhi was made on April 20, the requirement has not been met on a single day.

Meanwhile, India on Sunday recorded 3,92,488 new coronavirus cases, taking the overall infection count in the country to 1,95,57,457 since the pandemic first broke out in January last year. The daily surge in cases is slightly lower than that of Saturday’s when India reported over 4 lakh cases for the first time. The toll climbed by 3,689 to 2,15,542.