India Coronavirus Dispatch: Oxygen crunch in Maharashtra hospitals

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Oxygen crunch: In a Mumbai hospital, a doctor realised that he has enough oxygen to last 5 hours. He had 30 patients on oxygen support and the local oxygen supplier informed him that they had run our of medical grade oxygen. He had to eventually shift critical patients to other hospitals. Maharashtra does not have a shortfall of oxygen but logistical issues of supplying it on time are hampering supply, say officials. Meanwhile, it’s Madhya Pradesh — which relies on Maharashtra for its oxygen supply — that has been feeling the pinch of high demand within the western state. MP in fact had to get some of its supply from a plant in Bhilai, Chhattisgarh. In the pre-pandemic days, much of the oxygen produced in Maharashtra was meant for industrial use. Most of this oxygen is produced in the western-most regions of the state which then creates logistical issues. Even special tanker-trucks required for transporting the oxygen are now in short supply. Read more here

Business as usual: Punjab’s Mohali Civil Hospital has seen 34 babies born to Covid-positive mothers in the last two months. The good news is that all 34 of the newborns are healthy. ICMR has noted that vertical transmission of the virus from the mother to the child is probable but such a case is yet to be seen in this hospital which is situated in a high-burden district of the state. All pregnant women undergo RAT at the hospital. The ones with regular symptoms are admitted to isolation wards while severely ill ones are shifted to another hospital. The newborn baby is then tested for Covid-19. Breastfeeding is also allowed as long as the mother has sanitised her hands and wears a mask during the session. Some hospitals have resorted to ‘septic labour rooms’ for women with prior medical conditions. The real challenge, however, is hospital staff testing positive for the virus which added to a crunch in personnel. Read more here

Asha workers: In Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri, ASHA workers are being paid a measly Rs 33.3 per day for their services as contact-tracers. This is much below the amount promised by the state’s minimum wages law. 319 workers in the district have tested positive for the virus. Two workers from Pune and Solapur, meanwhile, have succumbed to the virus. There’s also a huge disparity in the wages given to workers in urban areas, who get up to Rs 300 a day, compared to the ones in rural stretches. Their issues are worsened when they test positive for the virus as being under quarantine for 14 days means a loss of income. Apart from poor quality PPE and low wages, the workers also face stiff resistance in the villages. They have no written to the state government, warning of a strike from 5-7 October if their demands of better gear and higher wages are not met. Read more here

What ails commoners: In Chandigarh, like in rest of the country, the Covid experience is one characterised by fear, as this story shows. For commoners, getting a hospital ready to admit you for treatment is a daunting task. Even incredibly expensive private hospitals have arbitrarily refused to admit patients despite their reports clearly showing the fact that they’re severely ill. The city’s government hospitals are overburdened. Emergency/trauma sections in hospitals are reeling under a lack of beds, with patients far outnumbering them. Besides, when admitted, residents also complain of apathy on the part of hospitals even for critically-ill patients. Families still have to shell out up to Rs 50,000 a day. To add to their woes, a senior medical equipment distributor now says the state has been hit by a shortage of medical oxygen and cylinders are being sold at 5-6 times the original cost. Read more here


Rural Telangana, Andhra: In Telangana, several families organised grand weddings that violated Covid norms by having over 200 guests. Many attendees subsequently tested positive for the virus. In fact, in Balvanthapur village, the entire population had to go into self-quarantine after one such wedding-led breakout. These mass event-led breakouts are believed to be driving the pandemic in rural stretches of the two states following easing of lockdown restrictions. Further, since many of the villages lie in the interiors, officials got to know about the spread of the virus only after cases of mass outbreaks came to light. The festive season added to officials’ woes as AP and Telangana saw a spike of 282 per cent and 140.8 per cent in cases, respectively, between 1 August and 14 September. But it’s not just weddings, the period also saw mass celebration of local festivals with crowded temples and large public gatherings. Read more here

Understanding Covid-19

Which events are high-risk, and which are not: Not all activities can be considered at par when it comes to risk of spreading the virus. Nightclubs are the ultimate high-risk activity, followed by plays and concerts, indoor bars and indoor parties. A little less risky are activities such as attending weddings and funerals, hugging and shaking hands, eating at a buffet and not wearing a mask. Medium-risk activities are getting a haircut, staying at a hotel, small indoor dinner parties and boarding a plane. Eating a takeaway, camping and exercising outdoors, meanwhile, are classified as low-risk. However, factors that should be kept in mind when undertaking any of the above is the number of people around you, proximity with those people, duration of exposure to them and the number of high-contact surfaces around. Read more here


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