551 O2 plants to be set up via PM-Cares: PMO
The Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday gave “in-principle approval” for 551 dedicated medical oxygen generation plants at public health facilities across the country using the PM Cares fund, which was set up last year to collect donations to battle Covid-19, as cases of the infectious disease continued to see a steep rise across the country, with the health care infrastructure overwhelmed by the caseload, and life-saving supplies running low.
Hospitals across the country are reporting shortages of medical oxygen and hospital beds as cases of Covid-19 continue to climb at an alarming rate.
“In line with Prime Minister’s direction of boosting availability of oxygen to hospitals, the PM CARES Fund has given in-principle approval for allocation of funds for installation of 551 dedicated Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) Medical Oxygen Generation Plants inside public health facilities in the country. PM has directed that these plants should be made functional as soon as possible,” the PMO said in a statement. “He said that these plants will serve as a major boost to oxygen availability at the district level,” the statement added.
The Centre and state governments have faced criticism for being unable to provide ample medical oxygen as the health care infrastructure in the country continues to crumble under the weight of new infections, which have crossed the world’s highest single-day tally with nearly 350,000 cases. The Centre has held several high-level meetings to address the shortages and asked states to ensure the ease of supply across borders.
The government’s press statement added that the dedicated plants will be established in identified government hospitals in district headquarters in various states and Union territories. “The procurement will be done through Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,” it said.
The PM Cares fund earlier allocated ₹201.58 crore for the installation of 162 dedicated PSA medical oxygen generation plants inside public health facilities in the country, the statement said. “The basic aim behind establishing PSA Oxygen Generation Plants at Government hospitals in the district headquarters is to further strengthen the public health system and ensure that each of these hospitals has a captive oxygen generation facility. Such an in-house captive oxygen generation facility would address the day-to-day medical oxygen needs of these hospitals and the district.”
According to a Scroll.in report, the central government took eight months into the pandemic to float a tender for the 162 plants. “Six months later, only 33 of 162 plants have been installed despite a deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping through the country,” the report said.
After Sunday’s announcement, a government official familiar with the matter said: “In view to increase medical oxygen capacity of the State, eight Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) Oxygen Generation plants are being installed in Delhi by the support of PM CARES Funds. These plants would enhance capacity of medical oxygen by 14.4 Metric Tonnes.” “Eight PSA Plants to be installed in Delhi, one Plant in Burari Hospital, Kaushik Enclave has already been installed on 17.3.2021,” the official added on condition of anonymity.
The official added that four plants, one each at Deen Dayal Upadhya Hospital, Lok Nayak Hospital, Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital Rohini and Deepa Chand Bandhu Hospital Ashok Vihar, were expected to be completed by April 30. “The site readiness of these hospitals was delayed by the State Government despite weekly reviews with them since November 2020. For Ambedkar Nagar Hospital, Dakshinpuri, the site has been readied as late as only 19th April,2021 by the State Government. Site readiness certificate of Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra Hospital, Narela has not yet been submitted by the Delhi Government,” the official said.
In a statement, the Delhi government said: “It is well known that Central government decided to setup 162 PSA plants all over India and issued tenders for the same in October 2020. The plants were to be setup by Union Health Ministry through PM Cares fund, and not a single rupee was given to State governments. All these plants were supposed to have been installed by December 2020 and handed over to State governments. However, Central government gave the contract for 140 of these plants to a single vendor, who ran away. As a result, across India not even 10 of these 162 plants have been made operational till date. In Delhi, 7 of the 8 plants were to be set up at Delhi government hospitals, and one at Central government hospital - Safdarjung. After multiple follow-ups with Central government, plants for 5 hospitals were delivered in early March 2021. Typically these plants take 3-4 days for installation. However, once again, the vendor was non-responsive and after multiple follow-ups with Centre, only 1 of the 5 plants has been made operational till date. As for the remaining 2 hospital locations, the plants have not even been received on site. We are shocked to learn that Central government is now making the excuse of site certificate not being available from the Delhi government as a reason for delay in plants.”