With the rise in number of Covid-19 patients, a majority of hospitals in Kathmandu valley are reeling under the shortage of oxygen in recent days.

Demand for oxygen sky-rocketed after Covid affected patients required oxygen support, High Flow Nasal Cannula (HFNC) therapy, a form of non-invasive respiratory support for critically ill patients that allows prescribed fraction of inspired oxygen level to be delivered at very high flow rates, and ventilator services.

One doctor who wished not to be identified said, "It' is a total disaster as the health sector is overwhelmed by the number of patients during this pandemic. The ratio of patients to medical staff is disproportionate owing to the second wave of coronavirus infection in Nepal."

Ram Saran Bhandari, Chairperson of HAMS Hospital Pvt Ltd said, the demand for oxygen has spiked five folds. "We require at least 150 cylinders per day as compared to 42 prior to the pandemic."

"In spite of installing an oxygen plant we are still not being able to produce the required oxygen and have to rely on outside sources to meet the current demand. Having said so, we are compelled to refer patients elsewhere owing to the lack of oxygen," Bhandari lamented.

The government must act on time to ensure smooth supply of oxygen by importing liquid oxygen from India or cylinders from neighbouring China to save lives of citizens.

The situation might go beyond the government's control if it does not take the issue seriously, Bhandari stated.

"It is no secret that a majority of hospitals are running out of oxygen stock. We do not have any other choice than to wait our turn to fill out cylinders outside the oxygen plant," one of the doctors in the Covid response team said in condition of anonymity. He further said, ventilators and ICU facilities required for the treatment of severe cases are in short supply as well.

Gaurab Sharda, Chairperson of Nepal Oxygen Gas Manufacturers Association said, "We have a total capacity of producing 17,000 cylinders per day including 8,000 cylinders in Kathmandu and remaining outside the valley."

However, the supply has been affected due to plant break-down, maintenance and irregular circulation of cylinders. "We have been managing to supply only around 7,500 cylinders per day in Kathmandu and 5,500 cylinders outside the valley," Sharda shared.

The rate of infection is increasing in an alarming rate. Nepal has reported a total of 385,890 Covid cases and 3,632 deaths across the nation.

A doctor examines a Covid-19 patient at STIDH, Teku Hospital in Kathmandu. Photo: Mausam Shah Nepali/THT
A doctor examines a Covid-19 patient at STIDH, Teku Hospital in Kathmandu. Photo: Mausam Shah Nepali/THT