Hyderabad: Even as the Telangana police continue to crack down on oxygen cylinders illegally held back by black marketers, COVID patients especially those who are placed under home isolation is finding an inconvenience to purchase cylinders.

Patients who are not admitted to the hospital and need oxygen at their homes are unable to procure oxygen cylinders in the city. In one such case reported on 15 July, a woman, Mehbooba Begum, who is suffering from interstitial lung disease (ILD) needed an oxygen cylinder. She was suffering from shortness of breath. The doctor at Owaisi Hospital and Research Center in Santhosh Nagar advised her to inhale three-four liters of oxygen every hour.

“She was fine for a few months but due to a low saturation level, she began experiencing shortness of breath. No beds were available in the hospitals so we started home treatment,” said Hidayat Ullah Khan, the woman's son.

Many COVID and non-COVID patients have been advised to stay in isolation or get treatment at home. “We were unable to get an oxygen cylinder even on a doctor's prescription. We got in touch with some NGOs but they, too, did not have any. Finally, we made temporary arrangements with a retailer on Thursday morning,” said Mr. Khan.

The Telangana drug control administration has asked manufacturers to distribute oxygen cylinders only to hospitals or to licensed wholesalers and retailers. Dr. Preeti Meena, the director of the TS drugs control authority, told NewsMeter, “In April we had issued circular granting permission to industrial oxygen manufactures to manufacture oxygen for medical use. The oxygen cylinders come under the category of drugs and are not meant for household purposes. No one is allowed to distribute cylinders without a valid license, neither can they stock cylinders nor transport them.”

Many patients who are under isolation or are undergoing home treatment are turning to retailers for oxygen cylinders. Mohammad Karim, the owner of Ayesha Enterprise that provides oxygen cylinders, said, “I have been a licensed seller for the past 10 years. After COVID-19, the demand for oxygen cylinders has gone up. Earlier, for a deposit of Rs. 1,000, we used to give a cylinder to patients, NGOs, and welfare societies but following the new orders we can provide oxygen cylinders only to hospitals and to those who have a doctor's prescription.”

Meanwhile, Mohd. Ahmad, the vice-president of the TDP minority wing, said, earlier, he had purchased an oxygen cylinder for Rs. 3,000 for a needy patient. NewsMeter had reported the story. "This time, however, it has become difficult to help people because even NGOs don't have oxygen cylinders and retail shops are closed at night," he added.

Many NGOs and welfare societies are asking authorities for permission to distribute oxygen cylinders to people who need them.

Sumit Jha

Sumit Jha is currently a multimedia journalist with NewsMeter. An alumnus of the University of Hyderabad and Amity University. He is specialised in Video Production. He was also a contributor at PARI network. Hailing from rural Bihar has spent his childhood shifting from places and people. Growing up he felt the need to document the lives and dreams of rural India. A lover of visual storytelling goes around the cities to search for Stories. He primarily reports on civic, consumer, health, human interest and data stories. You can follow Sumit on Twitter @sumitjha__

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