Mumbai power failure: COVID-19 patients left gasping for oxygen

Updated: 13 October, 2020 07:06 IST | Samiullah Khan, Anurag Kamble, Vishal Singh | Mumbai

First major city-wide failure since 1997 exposes chinks in the power grid, leaves COVID-19 patients at risk, trains halted, exams delayed, and the public sweating

Vaijayanti Jadhav with her son Bhiva in Gorai on Monday. Bhiva says he struggled for several hours to provide oxygen for his mother, who recently underwent treatment for COVID-19. Pic/Satej Shinde
Vaijayanti Jadhav with her son Bhiva in Gorai on Monday. Bhiva says he struggled for several hours to provide oxygen for his mother, who recently underwent treatment for COVID-19. Pic/Satej Shinde

The power failure amid the pandemic took a massive toll on COVID-19 patients in the city, with one losing his life on the way to another hospital. He was among the patients whom Apex Hospital in Mulund was shifting to Fortis after a fire in their generator disrupted electricity supply. A woman shifted to Fortis is in critical condition.

Apex Hospital, which had had 40 COVID-19 patients, was running on generators after the power cut. Around 5 pm, a short circuit in a generator led to a fire, following which the administration shifted all the patients to other facilities.

Firefighters at Apex Hospital
Firefighters at Apex Hospital

"We sent some of our patients to Fortis Hospital and some to Jumbo COVID facility of the BMC," said Dr Madhura Patkar, Administration, Apex Hospital. However, one patient died on the way to Fortis and another is in critical condition.

"One patient aged 70 was in critical condition and succumbed to the disease in the ambulance, on the way to Fortis Hospital. One woman is critical and is undergoing treatment at Fortis Hospital," Kishor Gandhi, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of T ward.

Unity and Dignity Foundation founder Shahnawaz Sheikh and a member pick up an oxygen cylinder at Kharodi at Marve road in Malad on Monday. Pics/Satej Shinde
Unity and Dignity Foundation founder Shahnawaz Sheikh and a member pick up an oxygen cylinder at Kharodi at Marve road in Malad on Monday. Pics/Satej Shinde

Among the patients shifted out of Apex Hospital is Saroja Devi Tiwari, 50, a resident of Dombivli. "My mother could have been discharged today, but due to the emergency she was shifted elsewhere. But, we still don't know she is," said son Pradeep.

Several others were affected by the blackout, including both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients who need external oxygen support. mid-day spoke to some of the patients and their family members about their ordeal.

Vaijayanti Jadhav, 65

A resident of Gorai, Borivli West, Vaijayanti had contracted the novel Coronavirus a month ago and after treatment, she still needs frequent oxygen support.

"My mother's lungs were damaged severely and doctors asked her to take oxygen for two months," said Bhiva Jadhav.

"When the electricity went off today, her oxygen level was about 98 per cent," Bhiva, a garage mechanic, said.

An hour later, Bhiva started making enquiries for a generator. "We found one from a decorator, but it didn't have fuel. We rushed to a petrol pump, but it was out of service due to the power cut. By then, my mother's oxygen level dropped to 70 per cent. I then sought a friend's help and took petrol from his bike and saved my mother," he said, adding that I was scared that my mother won't survive.

Shastri Nagar resident

Shagufta Merchant, whose father suffers from pulmonary fibrosis and "cannot survive without oxygen", said his oxygen level dropped to 60 per cent from 80 per cent after the power cut.

"I frantically called people, but only after an hour I found one cylinder in Jogeshwari. I drove there and brought it home. It was a near-death experience for my father," said Andheri West resident.

Zubir Farooqui, 50

Zubir Farooqui at his home in Mira road on Monday
Zubir Farooqui at his home in Mira road on Monday

Zubir, too, contracted COVID-19 a month ago and was asked to be on oxygen support on being discharged.

"After the power cut, I thought it would be back in an hour or so, but it didn't. I called my friend Shoeb Mustafa from Malad and after running around for four hours, he finally managed to get a cylinder and brought it to me," Zubir, a Mira road resident, said.

Geeta Parekh , 60

Geeta Parekh at her home in Bhadran Nagar on Monday
Geeta Parekh at her home in Bhadran Nagar on Monday

After undergoing treatment for COVID-19 for 36 days, Geeta, a resident of Bhadran Nagar, Malad West, needs frequent oxygen support at home. Her brother Nitin Parikh told mid-day, "After an hour of power cut, I took her to my office thinking it would have power. She started feeling restless and her oxygen level dropped to 85 per cent from 88 per cent. By the time power came back around noon, my sister got an oxygen cylinder."

Also Read: Power cut across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane due to grid failure; local trains come to standstill

Surge in demand

NGO Unity and Dignity Foundation founder Shahnawaz Sheikh said there was a surge in demand for cylinders on Monday. "Till yesterday, there was demand for five to six cylinders daily, but today I started getting calls from different areas of Mumbai. I gave away all the cylinders I had, but calls kept coming."

Meanwhile, Topiwala National Medical College Dean & Director (ME&MH) Dr Ramesh Bharamal and KEM Hospital Dean Dr Hemant Deshmukh said the backup system at their hospitals was a big-time saviour. All the machines were running on running on generators during the power cut.

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First Published: 13 October, 2020 07:04 IST

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