At around 3.30 pm on Wednesday, Dr John Punnooses, associate medical director at St Stephens Hospital, Tis Hazari, Delhi, told Newslaundry they only had enough oxygen to last until 8 in the evening.
“Our supplier of oxygen is Linde and the plant is in Faridabad,” he said. “Authorities of the Linde organization informed us that the plant has been sealed by the Haryana government and they will not be able to supply us oxygen. The oxygen supply at the hospital will run out by 8 pm. We have 300 Covid patients who are admitted and are receiving oxygen.”
Soon, NDTV Holy Family Hospital and Sir Irene Hospital administrators claiming that the Haryana government had also blocked tankers bringing oxygen to them.
Newslaundry contacted Garima Mittal, collector of Faridabad, where the Linde plant is located. Has the oxygen plant been sealed, we asked her?
“Absolutely not,” she replied. “I do not know where this news is coming from. Everything is fine. I don't know about the specific case of the hospital but there is no issue here. All the tankers are leaving the state, there’s no issue at all. Nobody has been stopped. There is absolutely smooth movement as has been going on. Oxygen supply will be as usual.”
We also contacted Surender Singh, business head at Linde India, to ask if they were still supplying oxygen to Delhi’s hospitals. “Sorry we are working hard to save peoples lives,” he replied before this reporter could complete the question, “I cannot talk right now.” He cut the call.
We then emailed and texted our questions to Singh and Linde India Ltd. The report will be updated if we receive a response.
In the meantime, it was reported that oxygen was on the way and would reach the hospital by 6 pm. We spoke with Dr John again. He said he didn’t know what had changed at the factory since he had last spoken with them but, yes, fresh supply was enroute.
Just as the St Stephens situation seemed to have been resolved, however, Lind India emerged at the centre of another scramble for oxygen.
At around 6 pm, PTI quoted Delhi's deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia as saying that the supply of oxygen had been restored.
The shortage of medical oxygen has heightened panic in the capital over the last 24 hours. On Tuesday, Sisodia said nearly all major private and government in the next 8-12 hours. In the evening, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the Narendra Modi government for help, saying oxygen was running alarmingly low. Finally, at night, the hospitals were supplied and the crisis was averted, at least in the immediate term.
Panic persists, however, not least because governments, at the centre and in states, haven’t been clear about the situation. It’s no secret that there isn’t nearly enough oxygen supply to keep up with the demand, not least because the central government . So, hospitals, patients and even state governments are left to scramble for oxygen, as the experience of St Stephens Hospital illustrates.
This is a developing story. We’ll update it as and when more information becomes available.