Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the government to ensure that no citizen dies because of the lack of oxygen, the government banned all non-medical use of oxygen, in the past week alone, at least 10,000 oxygen cylinders have been flown in, while the Tibet government trucked 30,000 litres of liquid oxygen.
Yet, patients are still being turned away from city hospitals due to the lack of beds with oxygen. Patients who could have been saved with timely and adequate medical oxygen have died.
When his mother Usha Shakya was admitted to Patan Hospital with Covid-19, Ujjwal Shakya had to get an oxygen cylinder because the government facility had just enough for patients already there.
He tried the nearby oxygen plant at the Patan Industrial Estate and several other factories, and brought the cylinders so his mother could breathe easier.
“The families of other patients in the ward told me it was better to get our own oxygen because the hospital might run out,” he said.
In Bhaktapur, Sanjay KC has been looking for oxygen cylinders for his sister who had to go to hospital after her condition worsened in home isolation. He finally found a cylinder and got his sister admitted.
There are reports of hospitals which have told families of patients they can only be admitted if they bring their own oxygen since they simply do not even have enough supply for patients already in ICU and ventilators.
“It is inhumane for hospitals to ask patients to bring their own oxygen, besides, if our hospitals cannot source oxygen, how can the patients?” asks Dinesh Kafle, a doctor at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital.
Some doctors have admitted that they have had to ration the oxygen and to make the difficult decision about which patients had the better chance of survival.
“We never ask patients to bring heir own oxygen, it is just that there are shortages everywhere,” explains Ashish Shrestha, a physician at Patan Hospital. “Some families just get their own cylinders just to be sure.”
On Sunday, there were 193 more fatalities from Covid-19 all over Nepal, taking the total deaths so far to 6,346. Of the nearly 20,000 people tested, 7,914 were positive for the coronavirus. There were 7,664 recoveries, and the active cases count has started levelling off at about 115,000.
In the past few days, hospitals report a drop in the number of very serious cases, and a slight easing of the demand for oxygen. Some of the oxygen concentrators and cylinders sent by organisations overseas are also reaching hospitals.