Shobita Dhar / May 6, 2021
“I am not worried about my oxygen supply.” Very few hospital managers in India can say this right now. But at Sangli’s Bharati Vidyapeeth hospital and medical college, dean Dr Shahaji Deshmukh can say this because the hospital had the foresight of investing in sufficient oxygen resources in advance after last year’s Covid experience.
The hospital, run by the Pune-based Bharati Vidyapeeth, currently has three oxygen resources – two liquid oxygen tanks of combined capacity of 19,000 lts, a bank of 130 jumbo oxygen cylinders (each has about 7,000 lts) and another bank of 30 jumbo cylinders dedicated only for Covid patients. It is a 780-bed hospital and 150 beds are dedicated for Covid patients.
Before Covid, Bharati hospital had only one liquid oxygen tank of 6,000 lts and 50 jumbo cylinders. It was not enough and the hospital had to arrange for more. But by the beginning of March this year, another tank of 13,000 lts was added.
“After the pandemic broke out last year, we realised we need to expand our oxygen source if the crisis repeated in future. You need to plan in peace to use in war. We got all the essential permissions and money from the management, and by early March this year we had another tank plus more cylinders. I know it is capital intensive but if you want to save lives, you have to spend money,” said Deshmukh, a general surgeon with more than 35 years of teaching experience.
Patients in nearby hospitals are also benefitting from it. Since the second Covid surge started, Bharati hospital has shared its jumbo cylinders with other hospitals. On May 1 and 3, Dr Ghatage Paediatric Multispeciality Hospital, Sangli, experienced acute shortage of oxygen. It sent out an SOS on a doctors’ WhatsApp group. Bharati hospital responded. “They gave us 10 jumbo cylinders, which saved the lives of 25 patients who were very critical. Otherwise, we would have had around 15-20 casualties,” said Dr Sharad Ghatage, who runs the 70-bed Covid hospital.
Like him, Dr Ravindra Walvekar of Sangli’s Walvekar hospital borrowed five jumbo cylinders from Bharati hospital a few days ago. “It definitely saved the lives of my patients,” said Walvekar, a general surgeon.
Bharati hospital has also planned to commission its own oxygen generation plant which, according to Deshmukh, should be up and running in about 45 days. “It will cost us Rs 2.5 crore. It will be three small plants each of 500lts/minute capacity rather than one big plant which is technically challenging to set up,” said Deshmukh. “The way Covid is spreading, we need to have a backup for the backup.”