Centre tells states not to restrict oxygen supplies

According to senior officials in the health ministry, the letter was sent in response to a Maharashtra government order under the disaster management Act, that sought to prohibit movement of oxygen from outside the state.
On Friday, less than 3.7% of 943,480 active cases in India were on oxygen support, the ministry said(PTI photo)
On Friday, less than 3.7% of 943,480 active cases in India were on oxygen support, the ministry said(PTI photo)
Updated on Sep 12, 2020 02:41 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByRhythma Kaul, Ranjan, Swapnil Rawal and Navneet Sharma, New Delhi/bhopal/mumbai/chandigarh

The Union health ministry on Friday asked states not to place restrictions on transport or supplies of medical oxygen after the Madhya Pradesh government claimed Maharashtra was doing this and at least three other states -- Punjab, Karnataka and Telangana -- reported problems in getting regular supplies.

On Friday, less than 3.7% of 943,480 active cases in India were on oxygen support, the ministry said, adding that for moderate and severe cases, adequate oxygen support, appropriate and timely administration of anti-coagulants and widely available and inexpensive corticosteroids, were the mainstay of Covid-19 therapy. Several states have seen up to five-fold increase in demand with Covid cases in the country rising to over four million.

“It has come to the knowledge of the Union health ministry that few states are trying to curb the free inter-state movement of oxygen supplies by exercising provisions under various Acts and also mandating the manufacturers/suppliers located in the State to restrict their oxygen supplies to only the hospitals of the State,” the health ministry said in a statement issued on Friday.

According to senior officials in the health ministry, the letter was sent in response to a Maharashtra government order under the disaster management Act, that sought to prohibit movement of oxygen from outside the state. “This may have built into a chain reaction with other states following suit. As of now there is no shortage but since major oxygen manufactures in the country are not equitably distributed, this could have led to a problem later on as states such as Delhi don’t have a manufacturer and gets its supply from Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand,” this person said, asking not to be named.

“India’s actual oxygen consumption is about 2000 metric tonnes per day, and the production capacity per day is about 6,400 metric tonnes that is also used by the industry. As the number of cases is rising and experience of treating doctors tells us that oxygen therapy saves lives, the consumption of oxygen is also going up and needs to be addressed,” the health ministry official added.

The Madhya Pradesh government reported shortage of oxygen after Maharashtra stopped supplies on September 7, reserving 80% of production in the state for Covid hospitals in the state. “Since chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had a talk with his Maharashtra counterpart yesterday, a positive outcome is expected soon,” said an MP health department official, asking not to be named.

The official shortage of oxygen was reported mainly from Jabalpur, Damoh, Chhindwara .

Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said the state has increased quota of oxygen supply from manufacturers within the state to hospitals in the state from the earlier 50% to 80% under Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act. he added that this is to meet the increase in demand because of rising Covid cases. The rest of the oxygen can be provided for industrial purpose or to other states, he explained.

Maharashtra has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the country, becoming the only state to cross the million-infections marks on Friday.

State chief secretary Sanjay Kumar confirmed that district administrations had stopped oxygen supply to neighbouring states. “I have had calls from Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka for oxygen. We are trying to sort it out. Some districts thought that there was not enough oxygen for patients there and hence the local administration had stopped supply to other states,” the official said.

Like Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka health department officials also reported shortage of supply and said the state government via a circular dated August 26 directed the manufacturers ‘to augment production and supply of liquid oxygen to meet demand’. A health department official, on condition of anonymity, said all assistant drug controllers across the state have been adequately empowered to ensure that oxygen demand is addressed.

Punjab also reported shortages. Principal secretary (industries and commerce) Alok Shekhar wrote to his counterparts in Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand to direct manufacturing plants in their area to increase supply of liquid oxygen to hospitals as well as manufacturers and refilling units in Punjab so as to reduce the shortage of oxygen in hospitals of the state.

Officials in most states, however, said there was no need to panic as the situation was being brought under control. “We have already instructed district health officials to procure dura oxygen cylinders on priority and has received the demands from 16 districts,” Dr Archana Patil, director of health, Maharashtra.

S Dhanraju, the nodal officer for oxygen supply to the health facilities in Madhya Pradesh, said, “We have 120 to 130 metric tonnes of oxygen every day in the state and we have sufficient stock for the Covid patients in the state.” The state plans to increase the oxygen supply per day to 150 tonnes by September 30.

Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said while the daily requirement by both Covid and non-Covid patients was 25 metric tonne per day, the state produces 37.86 metric tonne of oxygen per day. “We have drawn up a plan to become fully self-sufficient in oxygen very soon. In the meantime, we are trying to cope with the demand by getting oxygen from the neighbouring states,” Samir Kumar Sinha, principal secretary (health) said on Friday.

NS Nigam, West Bengal health secretary, said the state has worked on the plan to meet the increase in demand even though there was no shortage. Officials in health departments of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand too said there was no shortage of oxygen.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2021