As Vizag crosses 1 lakh Covid-19 cases and there have been at least 2,000 cases reported in a day, hospitals have turned down new admissions due to lack of vacancy of Oxygen beds, ICU and Ventilators. Covid-19 patients who see a drop in their saturation levels have no other option, but to seek an online doctor consultation with Oxygen setup at home. With the demand for oxygen cylinders high and their supply low, the prices have been jacked up across the city of Visakhapatnam.
During these times when the hospitals are overflowing with patients, people infected with Covid-19 have decided to home isolate. The only choice left with the oxygen suppliers is to deliver it home. These are testing times as there is a very meagre supply of oxygen and only a small fraction of the people having the opportunity to avail it in times of need. While everything seems to be going astray, technology, especially social media, has been used well in these times. With Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp forwards, the exchange of information and communication regarding the availability of oxygen cylinders has become faster and easier. However, sometimes it leads to no avail.
Oxygen supply in Vizag has witnessed a significant plunge due to various reasons. Lack of supply, dealers hoarding, recovered patients still keeping the cylinders and individuals stocking cylinders in view of future use, have added to the existing infrastructure gap. With the oxygen supply drastically reducing by the day, oxygen suppliers and dealers have begun to seize the opportunity by quoting skyrocketing prices. With the flying squad doing the rounds and conducting raids across the district, various malpractices have still not come under control. Speaking to a few residents in Visakhapatnam who have had it difficult due to the high demand for oxygen cylinders, it has been inferred that prices quoted in the morning don’t remain the same throughout the day. There is an incremental increase in the prices and lack of supply in oxygen cylinders. Only option left for the common public is to heed the prices quoted by the suppliers.
Prathyusha who was in search of an Oxygen cylinder for rent in Visakhapatnam, for her aunt, was informed about some being available via social media. But to her dismay, none of the suppliers possessed any oxygen cylinders. “I almost went to 3-4 Oxygen suppliers who rent or sell and called at least 10 numbers who give home delivery. Though there was no availability on that day, I was shocked at the rates that were demanded, which were different for each supplier. With no option left at that time, I had to buy a 45 litres Oxygen cylinder for Rs 45,000. The same cylinder is given for Rs. 3,000 on a rental basis per day, paying a deposit of Rs 30,000. It made no difference for me so I decided to buy and refill when needed,” says Prathyusha.
While speaking to other families who have faced similar situations during last year’s pandemic, they say that the demand is so high that even the Oxygen suppliers are trying their best to procure as much as possible, to get good business with the available material. “My mother was affected during last year’s pandemic and we had to put her under home isolation and monitor her health. When we needed an Oxygen cylinder at home, we paid a sum of Rs 10,000 as a deposit for 1 week and got back Rs 9,000, deducting the rental charges. Now the same Oxygen cylinders in Visakhapatnam are given for Rs 3,000 rent per day, after paying Rs. 30,000 as a deposit. Most of them are not bothered by the price as it is the need of the hour for every family affected with Covid-19,” said Harish, a resident of Maddilapalem.
Vizag has seen a significant rise in Oxygen suppliers who are into online business selling portable Oxygen cans. They provide for those in need during any Covid-19 related emergency. These portable cans can be kept handy at home for patients with mild symptoms and can be used in case if the patient needs Oxygen urgently.
According to sources, Oxygen Can dealers have bought portable oxygen cans in bulk and are selling them for a staggering Rs 2,000 per can. Same portable cans were sold for Rs 350 each, during the last pandemic. In a very sad state of affairs, there are people who bought 10-15 portable cans in Visakhapatnam, when they couldn’t get an Oxygen Cylinder for rent.
It’s the same with Oxygen Concentrators, which are on demand especially for patients with mild symptoms. While 5 litres of Oxygen Concentrators were being sold for around Rs. 55,000 two weeks back, the same are being sold for Rs 80,000-1 lakh now. “While we got a dealer selling 5 litres of Oxygen Concentrator for Rs 60,000, a week back, yesterday, we bought 5 litres of Oxygen Concentrator for Rs 1.2 lakh from a dealer in Vizag. Though it was almost double the rate, we had no option as we needed a concentrator for my father who suffers from intensive lung infection and needed continuous Oxygen supply,” said Gautam.