Deficiency of high flow oxygen at SMHS puts lives of patients at risk

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, Aug 18: The deficiency of high flow oxygen is emerging as a major challenge in the treatment of COVID-19 patients at Shri Mahajara Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) in Srinagar with doctors blaming the administration for failing to upgrade the infrastructure in the last five months.
Sources in the hospital said against a requirement of around 6000 liters of oxygen per minute the oxygen plant of the hospital is supplying mere 2000 liters of oxygen per minute. In addition, sources said, the hospital has a deficiency of around 40 percent oxygen beds-out of total 150-170 beds oxygen ports are available at 75-80 beds- which is also emerging as a major impediment in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
The doctors explained that the high flow oxygen means that a patient is given oxygen at the rate of 60 liters per minute without any interruption but that cannot be maintained with the current oxygen supply of hospital. “High flow oxygen has emerged as preferred treatment for severe COVID-19 patients,” a doctor said, adding the high flow oxygen becomes more important in view of the limited availability of ventilators in the hospital.
The doctors said that the hospital has an inadequate stock of oxygen cylinders which causes a delay in the treatment. They said out of the total 80-100 suspected COVID 19 patients that the hospital receives every day, 30-40 patients have severe symptoms and need immediate oxygen support. However, patients are forced to wait for hours for the cylinder as the available stock is unable to cater to the rush of the patients.
“On Tuesday I received two patients in the triage with AMS and severe hypoxemia. I asked the attendant to get an oxygen cylinder from ward 8 which is opposite to the patient’s ward. But the oxygen cylinders were not provided till evening with employees saying that only two cylinders will be given today,” a doctor said, adding that the same thing happened with another emergency patient whose CT- scan got delayed due to non-availability of oxygen cylinder.
Another doctor said that the situation is alarming and the administration should take some emergency measures with regard to the availability of oxygen before the situation slips out of hands. “Last evening I went to triage and saw two patients, 3 and 20-years old. They both needed 6-hours of respiratory support to live, but neither oxygen nor ventilator was available,” he said.
The doctors said that they have high hopes from new Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha, who recently visited the hospital and sanctioned 100-nursing orderlies to meet the shortage of lower staff in the hospital. “The move would mitigate the deficiency of nurse to a large extent, but the appointments should be made on a fast track basis as we are dealing with an extraordinary situation,” a doctor said, adding that the LG should look into the other problems as well.
The doctors said they feel helpless as people blame them for poor facilities at the hospital. “We are dealing with the crisis on the ground. We cannot upgrade the infrastructure, bring ventilators and improve oxygen facilities. It is the job of the administration. They have done nothing in the last five months,” a doctor said, adding that doctors face the brunt of administration’s inability to deal with the crisis.
Principal Government Medical College Srinagar, Samia Rashid, admitted the deficiency of the oxygen in the hospital. “Like other hospitals we too are facing deficiency of oxygen. We have already raised the issue with the concerned authorities and are hopeful,” she said.
Asked about the shortage of oxygen cylinders, she said they have enough oxygen cylinders available at the hospital. “Around 1000 oxygen cylinders are available with us,” she added.


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