Gasping for oxygen

The political bickering and confusion prevailing over the distribution of essential medical resources — particularly hospital beds, oxygen and drugs — that have been stretched thin as record-breaking Covid infections storm the country is ghastly. The country that is in the thick of an unprecedented health crisis in living memory cannot afford to battle the common enemy in silos. The inter-state or intra-state hurdles and restrictions in the provision of medical care or transport of essentials, if any, must be eased so that the Covid response is equal for all needy patients and effective. Critically ill patients and overwhelmed hospitals gasping for oxygen or crying for medicines need immediate help. For example, the NCR that is reeling under acute shortages — and fatalities thereof — would breathe easier if Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh pitched in with aid. The neighbouring states must find some ways out to pool in and share their resources for optimal and judicious distribution among themselves, taking into account the high-burden hospitals and hotspots. Already, many harried patients from Delhi are looking for treatment in Punjab and Haryana.

It would be yet another shining beacon of hope amid this gloom. Along with scientific breakthroughs and government policies initiated or suitably modified, humanitarian acts are equally important in cushioning the devastating and traumatic impact of the virus. Big and small, as per one’s capacity, they are heartwarmingly visible everywhere. Hitech Industries of Mohali has been filling cylinders of patients in home treatment with oxygen free of cost. The Rail Coach Factory of Kapurthala supplied oxygen to a hospital in Amritsar facing an increased demand. Friends and families of Covid patients are pitching in with contacts, food and transport; doctors are working overtime, both online and physically; so are nurses and sanitation staff; crematorium/burial workers are rising to the occasion to help the grieving families.

At the same time, there is a need to address the public health loopholes laid bare by expediting the long-term measures. Maharashtra’s plan to set up Covid hospitals near oxygen plants is worth emulating, even as the Centre pushes to import the life-saving gas or install oxygen plants in more far-flung hospitals.

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