The lives of hundreds of patients of Covid-19 undergoing treatment at public and private health facilities in Karachi were at risk on Thursday, and health authorities had to send SOS signals to National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), police and the government to ensure supply of oxygen which was disrupted due to sit-ins at various important roads and thoroughfares in the city.
“Oxygen at the JPMC is supplied from a plant that is around 40 kilometres from the city in the Port Qasim area. Due to sit-ins and road blocks on the National Highway and Sharea Faisal, the oxygen supply to the JPMC and several other hospitals has been suspended over the last few days, which is a cause of worry for us as there are dozens of patients, not only at the Covid-19 ward but in other wards also who need oxygen for their survival,” Dr Seemin Jamali, the executive director at the JPMC told The News.
Hundreds of protesters have been staging sit-ins by blocking main arteries at around 21 points in the city for the last five days in protest against the killings of 11 labourers in the Machh district of Balochistan, causing immense hardships to hundreds of thousands of motorists, patients and suppliers of essential services and goods, including oxygen, to the city.
Information about the disruption in the oxygen supply was immediately conveyed on to the top authorities in the country, including the NCOC, which directed the police and other agencies to ensure that protesters provided a safe passage to dozens of oxygen tankers, which transported liquefied oxygen to various public and private health facilities, especially to those treating Covid-19 patients in Karachi.
One of the focal persons notified by the Sindh government to ensure the oxygen supply at hospitals, Dr Dabeer Ahmed Khan, confirmed that hospitals were facing an extreme shortage of oxygen for their patients due to the disruption in the supply, while oxygen suppliers also expressed their helplessness with transporting the essential gas to the health facilities due to road blocks.
“The issue was also raised at the NCOC where I represent Sindh, and directives were issued to the police and other agencies to ensure a smooth supply of oxygen to the health facilities. Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho and Secretary Health Kazim Jatoi also spoke to Karachi Additional IG Ghulam Nabi Memon to seek their help with transporting oxygen to the hospitals,” Dr Khan added.
He said oxygen tankers were taken to hospitals while it was also ensured that oxygen was continuously supplied to health facilities. SSP Malir Irfan Bahadaur said he supervised the operation to supply oxygen to the health facilities and now police vans were escorting the oxygen tankers whenever they left the oxygen plants to the health facilities. “Although protestors did not allow the safe passage to the oxygen tankers, we used the alternative routes and safely escorted the oxygen tankers to the destined health facilities,” he added.