Health infrastructure gets boost as Delhi preps for next Covid wave
Building on lessons learnt from arresting the brutal fourth wave of infections in the Capital, Delhi has started preparing for the next Covid-19 wave, ramping up medical oxygen supplies and transport, hiring health care workers, and augmenting infrastructure.
The administration is also attempting to create its own model of predicting the onset of such waves, and launching a city-based graded response action plan (GRAP) based on positivity rate indicators. On Thursday, the Delhi government constituted a state-level expert committee to create a Covid-19 wave predictor and GRAP. It also formed a second panel to ensure required Covid-19 infrastructure is ready in time.
The action plan comes at a time when experts have warned that a new wave of infections cannot be ruled out, especially due to the threat of more transmissible Sars-Cov-2 variants, low vaccination coverage, and the gradual lifting of the lockdown.
“If the third wave (fifth for Delhi) of the coronavirus emerges, we have to be prepared in advance to fight it… The problems that emerged during the second wave should not be faced by the people of Delhi again… Those problems are now being resolved. Teams have been formed to ensure an adequate number of beds and better management of oxygen, and essential medicines,” CM Arvind Kejriwal said last week.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said the government was implementing plans to ramp up beds, opening up makeshift centres, and adding infrastructure in the hospitals.
“Since the second wave began, Delhi government has been working to upgrade and enhance its medical infrastructure. Though cases have dipped, we continue to build infrastructure in preparation of a third wave. While we are working hard on vaccinating everyone in Delhi, the severe shortage of vaccinations in the country means that we have to be prepared for another wave before everyone gets vaccinated,” he said.
Government orders on Thursday said top priority is to be given to medical oxygen and establishing strong supply-chain management of all essential items. During the peak of infections, the city needed 700 MT of oxygen on average daily but often suffered critical shortages.
“Delhi’s base level consumption of medical oxygen is around 250-300MT. The plan is to make Delhi self-sufficient to this base level at least so that hospitals are not left to fend for themselves for oxygen. A cabinet note has been initiated to give generous financial incentives to any firm or individual hospital that wishes to set up a liquid medical oxygen manufacturing plant or oxygen generation plant or purchase cryogenic oxygen tankers,” said a senior government official wishing not to be named.
“Orders for five buffer tanks have already been placed and shall be installed by June 10. Also, PSA oxygen plants have been installed in 11 Delhi government hospitals over the past one month. Additionally, 46 more plants will be installed within the next two months. So, in total, Delhi government will have 57 plants with a combined capacity of 64MT at 35,000 LPM,” said a Delhi government spokesperson.
To help temporary Covid care centres and provide back-up for hospitals, oxygen cylinders and concentrators are being accumulated on a large scale.
Experts said the recent Covid wave showed that besides normal care centres that accommodated patients with moderate symptoms, the city will need more beds with oxygen and critical care support, both in hospitals and informal set-ups.
Dr Amit Singh, associate professor, Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru said in the absence of large-scale vaccination, Delhi needs to be better prepared in terms of health infrastructure.
“We need to see whether the number of beds have increased after the second wave. Do we have our own oxygen generation capacity? Is the oxygen coming from the industrial quota or is it medical grade oxygen which is of higher purity,” he said.