1/3rd of PSA oxygen plants under PM Cares in Bihar face teething problems

Published on Jan 07, 2022 09:33 PM IST
As many as 44 of the total 119 PSA plants commissioned in the state so far, against the total of 127 planned, were non-functional on Friday during an audit by the state health department.
Workers refill oxygen cylinders for Covid patients in Patna on Friday. (Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)
Workers refill oxygen cylinders for Covid patients in Patna on Friday. (Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)
By, Patna

More than one-third of the 62 pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants installed in government facilities of Bihar under the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM Cares) fund are facing operational issues, a month after their commissioning, officials privy to the matter said.

As many as 44 of the total 119 PSA plants commissioned in the state so far, against the total of 127 planned, were non-functional on Friday during an audit by the state health department.

At least 55% of the 44 non-functional PSA plants are from the PM Cares fund, said officials quoted above.

Seven of the faulty 24 PSA plants under PM CARES face oxygen purity issue, six have leakage problem, two have encountered zeolite problem (it absorbs nitrogen and separates oxygen from atmospheric air) and white dust issue in their oxygen tanks, two need replacement of auto changeover (required to maintain uninterrupted supply of oxygen in event of power failure), one has pressure issue, while six others face ignition problem, compressor, stabiliser, alarm, suction jar and valve issues.

“The figure is dynamic and likely to change every day. The Centre is monitoring the performance of the PSA plants on a daily basis and has asked the vendors of Central agencies, which installed them, to urgently attend to the snag,” said an official.

The 500 LPM (litres per minute) PSA plants at subdivisional hospitals (SDH) Benipur in Darbhanga district and Narkatiaganj in West Champaran, 1,000 LPM plants at subdivisional hospital Buxar and the sadar (district) hospitals of Khagaria, Munger and Siwan, 2,000 LPM plant at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna, face oxygen purity issue, said the official.

The SDH Benipur plant reported the lowest oxygen purity level of 65% while the SDH Narkatiaganj plant had 89%.

As per Centre’s guidelines, PSA plants need to maintain a minimum oxygen purity level of 93% with a variation of plus or minus 3%, said officials aware of the matter.

The 1,000 LPM PSA plant at Darbhanga Medical College Hospital (DMCH), 500 LPM plant at the SDH Tekari in Gaya district, 200 LPM plant at SDH Tarapur in Munger district, 1,000 LPM plant at district hospitals of Purnia and 200 LPM plant at Sheohar, and the 250 LPM plant at SDH Vikramganj in Rohtas district have leakage in either their medical gas pipeline system (MGPS) or oxygen tanks, said the officials.

The SDH Mahua plant at Vaishali district has pressure issues. A PSA plant has to maintain 4-6 bar oxygen pressure. The desired level of oxygen pressure, prescribed at hospital bed of patient is 4.2 bar, as per the Centre’s guidelines.

The PSA plants at SDH Pusa and Jagdishpur in Bhojpur district require replacement of auto-changeover.

Of the 62 PSA plants under PM Cares in the state, the DRDO has installed 44, the HLL Infra Tech Services Limited (HITES) and the Central Medical Services Society (CMSS) nine each.

Only 79 of the 119 PSA plants available in the state were found to be fully functional during a mock drill on December 23.

As many as 14 PSA plants, including those at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital, Bhagalpur, and the Government Medical College, Bettiah, had reported oxygen purity issues. These also included a few PSA plants at Bhojpur, Darbhanga, East Champaran, Gaya, Lakhisarai, Madhepura, Madhubani, Munger, Nalanda, Purnia, Rohtas and West Champaran districts.

Twelve PSA plants, including in Araria, East Champaran, Gaya, Gopalganj, Katihar, Khagaria, Madhubani, Nalanda, Purnia, Saharsa and Bhagalpur districts, have reported leakage. There were pressure issues in 15 PSA plants, including some installed at Bhojpur, Gaya, Kaimur, Kishanganj, Lakhisarai, Madhepura, Madhubani, Munger, Nalanda, Purnia, Rohtas and West Champaran districts.

A Central team had recently noted that ill-trained personnel were running the PSA plants in government facilities of the state.

“We are hiring trained personnel from the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) to operate the PSA plants. They have already begun joining their place of posting and all of them should be in place by next week,” said an official of the health department who requested anonymity. “We will not allow oxygen supply to hospital bedside through any PSA plant which does not conform to the prescribed purity level prescribed by the Centre,” he said.

Only six of the 62 PSA plants under PM Cares and seven of the 60 PSA plants of the state government or those put up by private and public sector firms under corporate social responsibility, have diesel generator sets as back-up for power supply.

The state government on Thursday issued orders for installation of diesel generator sets against each PSA plant, the officer said.

The PSA plants, which generate oxygen from gases in the atmosphere, have been installed at medical colleges, district hospitals, subdivisional hospitals and community health centres to tide over the oxygen crisis, as the Delta and Omicron variants of Covid-19 loom in the apparent third wave of the coronavirus.

Bihar has scaled up its oxygen capacity to 448 metric tonnes against its assessed oxygen requirement projection of 377 metric tonnes during the peak active cases last year. Of this, 140 metric tonnes will be generated through 122 PSA oxygen generation plants and 308 metric tonnes of oxygen can be stored in cryogenic liquid medical oxygen tanks at 10 state-run medical college hospitals.

The state has 15,178 total available beds against a total bed capacity of 19,383 for management of Covid-19 patients. Of these, 12,000 beds have oxygen supply through centralised pipeline, said senior state health officials.

The Centre had allocated Bihar a daily quota of 214 metric tonnes of medical oxygen, but it was able to lift only 167 metric tonnes because of logistic issues in the first week of May last year. The state’s maximum oxygen requirement was then assessed at 240-250 metric tonnes, said the official quoted above.

This led to one of the worst medical oxygen crises during the peak of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic between April and May last year when the Delta variant claimed many lives.

Meanwhile, union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan reviewed the preparedness status of oxygen infrastructure, including PSA plants, oxygen concentrators and oxygen cylinders, ventilators with states and union territories on Friday.


    Ruchir writes on health, aviation, power and myriad other issues. An ex-TOI, he has worked both on Desk and in reporting. He over 25 years of broadcast and print journalism experience in Assam, Jharkhand & Bihar.

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