Oxygen ‘langar’ with 15 cylinders lands in a soup — no supply

Organisers say plants denying oxygen refill while some cylinders were stopped on the way from Haryana as patients wait

Outside a park near a mall in west Delhi’s Subhash Nagar, 60-year-old Rama lay on a bench as her daughter-in-law Indu cried for help. They were waiting at an oxygen service provider, which was yet to open its doors for the day.

The ‘Drive-thru oxygen langar’ was started by Akal Purakh Ki Fouj on Tuesday with 15 oxygen cylinders of 50-litre capacity. It hit the first roadblock on Wednesday night when they ran out of oxygen.

“Oxygen filling plants deny giving us oxygen as we take 15 cylinders to them at a time. They are either giving oxygen to hospitals or filling one at a time for people who have cylinders. We haven’t been able to get oxygen since Wednesday night,” said Amreek Singh Rekhi (61), a member of the organisation.

Mr. Singh added that some of the oxygen cylinders were stopped on the way from Haryana. “We have tried all possible avenues to get those cylinders released. We also got a letter from the local MLA, but nothing has happened so far,” Mr. Singh said on Friday afternoon.

Mr. Singh has to be around COVID patients to continue the services. On this, he said: “The almighty is making us do this.”

Ever since the refilling of cylinders stopped, the service has been running on oxygen concentrators, which need to rest of seven-eight hours, those managing the service said. One of the members sat in the park behind a counter and faced people who helplessly reached out for oxygen. He informed them that the service will open only around 3 p.m. “Are there oxygen cylinders available here?”, “Can you refill my cylinder?”, “You’ll take the patients after 3 p.m. for sure?” were some of the questions the member had to field.

He told them that they don’t provide oxygen cylinders and that if they have cylinders, they should visit Mayapuri to get them refilled. He also said they will be taking patients on a first-come-first-serve basis after handing out tokens.

The member, on request of anonymity, said that they take 10 patients at a time, while the rest wait in a queue. “At a stretch, we provide oxygen to one patient for about three-five hours, after which their oxygen levels usually stabilise. This gives time to people to look for another permanent arrangement,” he said.

They had run the machines all night and were giving them rest on Friday morning till 3 p.m., he said.

‘Oxygen level 30-70’

“We are also only taking patients whose oxygen levels have dropped substantially – between 30 and 70 – and we are not taking people with 85-90 oxygen levels. We have energy drinks for them.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Rama’s oxygen continued to drop, and her daughter-in-law continued to weep. A 70-year-old Bhupinder Kaur sat in an auto, waiting for oxygen as her SpO2 levels dropped to 45.

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