COVID-19 patients, NGOs struggle to refill oxygen cylinders

Oxygen plants are prioritising requests from hospital after authorities crack down on hoarding

Families of patients, who are dependent on oxygen cylinders at home, as well as non-government organisations and volunteer networks, who provide this service to individuals, are finding it increasingly difficult to get their cylinders filled. One of the reasons is a decision taken by the authorities to crack down on people hoarding oxygen cylinders and streamline supply to hospitals. Oxygen plants have been told not to fill empty cylinders brought by individuals.

However, this measure has caused inconvenience to those who are genuinely in need of oxygen and getting treated at home.

“Through our network, we have been supplying cylinders for those in need. For the last few days, individuals going to the plant to refill cylinders are facing problems. The staff of some plants are asking people to produce discharge letters from hospitals to refill cylinders or letters from doctors,” said Sabeen Nazir from Naasih Foundation.

Due to the lack of oxygenated beds, many COVID-19 patients have no option but to use oxygen cylinders at home. Even patients who have been discharged from hospitals but need oxygen at home are reportedly facing difficulties.

“Based on references from hospitals, we are supplying oxygen to people who have cylinders, but getting a letter from hospitals is a tedious process. We had a bank of 150 cylinders. On an average, we would send 40 to oxygen plants to be filled. But the plants are refusing to fill cylinders of NGOs,” Mr. Nazir added.

Senior IAS official Munish Moudgil said, “Since March 9, we have asked plants not to refill cylinders brought by individuals. Steps have been taken to stop hoarding, as people may be selling cylinders in the black market. Filling of cylinders of individuals will result in short supply to hospitals. It is better for people who are in need of oxygen to get treated in hospitals.”

However, NGOs point out that while prioritising supply to hospitals is important, the authorities should consider the genuine needs of patients.

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