COVID-19: Now, rent an oxygen tank while looking for hospital bed

Updated: May 30, 2020, 07:13 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

NGOs and an MLA start an initiative in South Mumbai to help COVID-19 patients with breathing difficulty get immediate help as hospital beds are not easily available these days

Congress MLA Amin Patel (in blue kurta) at Saifee Ambulance centre, Bhendi Bazar, launches the initiative. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Congress MLA Amin Patel (in blue kurta) at Saifee Ambulance centre, Bhendi Bazar, launches the initiative. Pic/Suresh Karkera

With constant rise in the COVID-19 infections in the city and hospitals fast running out of beds, many patients succumb to the virus-related complications like breathlessness due to lack of oxygen support on time. To address the issue, Saifee Ambulance and an NGO on Friday started an initiative to allow people to rent oxygen tanks so that the patients can get immediate help.

People who need an oxygen cylinder can call on the existing number of Saifee Ambulance and rent one along with the tubes and other accessories. Shabbir Bharmal, vice president of the Saifee Ambulance Society, said they have started the initiative in South Mumbai with 500 cylinders, and are considering extending it to other parts of the city as well. "We receive around 15-20 calls every day from people whose family member(s) are having difficulty breathing and who need oxygen support till they find a bed in a hospital. This allows them to access emergency medical help they need."

A 24/7 service

Bharmal said this will be a 24-hour service to primarily help suspected COVID-19 patients. Their family members can come pick-up the cylinder from Saifee Ambulance's Byculla centre. As part of the service, doctors will be available 24 hours to guide people to use the oxygen cylinder, he said, adding, "The doctors will be available on video calls as well to help them set up the cylinder and even help the patient if needed."

Congress MLA from Mumbadevi Amin Patel, who is spearheading the initiative, said if families are able to rent oxygen cylinders, they would get the help that is provided at the Dedicated COVID Heath Centres across the city.

"There is a shortage of ICU beds in the city, due to which many people have to travel from one hospital to another while the condition of the patient suffering from breathlessness deteriorates. This service will initially be available for people living in wards A, B,C, D and E (from Nariman point to Mumbai Central), and we are trying to expand it to the rest of the city," he said.

Free for those who can't afford

Patel said though a refundable security deposit of R4,000 and a charge of R400 has been fixed for every cylinder, the service will be free for people who can't afford it. "Their Aadhaar card will be kept until they return the cylinder. If a patient cannot afford the deposit, then they can get a recommendation and the cylinder will be given to them free of charge," he said. The oxygen tanks will be disinfected thoroughly after every use.

Non-profit organisation NESH (Nobody Ever Sleeps Hungry) is also contributing to the initiative. NESH founder Zohar Diwan said they will also help people who don't own a vehicle and need help transporting the oxygen cylinder back home.

"The husband of one of our volunteers was suffering from low oxygen saturation and died because he didn't get a hospital bed on time. Finding an ambulance is also an ordeal these days which is why a rented oxygen cylinder is like first aid in such situations," he said. According to the BMC's data, E ward (Byculla) has the second highest number of positive cases in the city, with 2,487 COVID-19 infections, while D ward has over 1,100 cases as of May 28.

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