With the Srinagar district accounting for more than half of Kashmir’s COVID-19 cases and its hospitals running out of beds, the resultant high demand for oxygen has left attendants of infected patients in north Kashmir’s Kupwara struggling to refill oxygen cylinders.
The district, with more than 1,293 active positive cases of COVID-19 infection, has just two major private dealers — Man Oxygen and SS Gases — of medical oxygen. Arshid Ahmad, owner of Man Oxygen, said distributors have reduced supply citing “rising demand of oxygen in Srinagar”.
Abdul Rashid who owns SS Gases in Handwara subdistrict, said that his inventory was left with only 21 cylinders, a stock sufficient for a single day. He receives his supply of oxygen from a plant in Khonmoh industrial estate, just outside Srinagar city, more than a hundred kilometres from Handwara.
There are merely four medical oxygen refilling units in the Kashmir Division, all located in central Kashmir, with a daily oxygen generation capacity of 14,561 cubic meters. “There has been a delay in refilling of the cylinders at the source as vehicles supplying oxygen cylinders have to queue for supply, as the demand has risen,” Rashid said.
Even as the J-K administration has claimed sufficient supplies of oxygen and has established an “Oxygen War Room”, the ground reality betrays their public relations overdrive. The shortage of oxygen has worried residents of the border district.
Zaheer Ahmad Mir, who lost his father to COVID-19 last year, has been moving pillar to post to refill the oxygen cylinder for his uncle Mohammad Zaman Mir. “Doctors have advised us to provide him with an abundant supply of oxygen,” he said. “If we fail to find oxygen, it will cause trouble as his saturation drops abruptly when he is off oxygen support.”
The administration has recently operationalised a 1000 litres per minute output oxygen generation plant in the Sub District Hospital (SDH) in Kupwara. According to senior doctor Ayjaz Bhat, the supply is sufficient to cater to 100 patients only but is likely to be increased soon to cater to an additional 80 patients.
Qazi Sarwar, Additional Commissioner Kashmir, told The Kashmir Walla, that the administration will try to explore alternatives to refill oxygen cylinders at the SDH Kupwara for patients who require oxygen at their homes.