Govt drafts 5-point plan to check oxygen shortage
The Centre has drafted a five-point agenda to address reports of shortage of medical oxygen — used in the treatment of moderate and severe Covid-19 patients — including setting up a 24x7 hindrance-free corridor for transport, and creating a control room to monitor demand and supply on a real-time basis.
Rajesh Bhushan, secretary at the Union health ministry, said in a briefing on Tuesday that while there is “sufficient” supply of medical oxygen at the moment, “we are thinking ahead”.
The five measures are: a 24x7 green corridor for movement of liquid medical oxygen tankers within and outside a state; scrapping time restrictions for trucks carrying oxygen cylinders to enter city limits; creation of an interministerial control group to monitor oxygen supply and demand in real-time; creation of a micro-level management system to monitor the upkeep of oxygen pipelines, cryogenic tanks etc; and stricter checks in states on hoarding and black marketing of oxygen.
The measures come in the background of reports on a shortage of medical oxygen in some parts of the country.
“States have also been asked to create a mini-control room for monitoring oxygen demand and supply similar to what Centre is doing... Even though there is sufficient headroom at the moment, we are thinking ahead,” Bhushan said.
Some states, such as Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka and Assam, earlier this month reported the shortage of oxygen supply to hospitals. On September 11, the Union health ministry has issue an advisory asking states not to impose restrictions on interstate transport of oxygen and on its production. The Union health ministry the following week asked states to press more tankers into action, re-purpose vehicles to carry oxygen, and take steps to reduce their turnaround time.
India has the capacity to manufacture 6,900 metric tonnes of medical oxygen on a daily basis, and around 2,800 metric tonnes of oxygen is required for both Covid-19 and non-Covid health use.
“Around 2,200 metric tonnes is consumed for industrial purposes; therefore, at the national level there is no shortage of oxygen. In fact, there is generally a surplus of about 1,500-1,900 metric tonnes of oxygen,” health ministry officials had said during last week’s Covid-19 press briefing.
About 6% of Covid-19 patients require oxygen support at any given time across the country.
“Even though there is no overall shortage in oxygen supply, the problem arises when there is no oxygen inventory management and when there is lack of alert generation mechanism at the hospital levels,” Bhushan said on Tuesday, adding that inventory planning is crucial to dealing with this localised shortage.
An interministerial empowered committee has been set up to ensure there is no shortage, and has held three meetings with the states over the past week.
Critical care specialists treating Covid-19 patients in the National Capital Region say while there is no shortage currently, it is crucial to ensure that abundant oxygen supply is maintained.
“We haven’t faced any shortages but its unhindered oxygen supply is critical in saving lives. In moderate to severe Covid-19 cases the lung cells don’t participate in normal functioning that results in lungs failing to take up oxygen from the blood and also not being able to remove carbon dioxide from the blood. It leads to oxygen levels dropping in the blood for which oxygen support is given externally to compensate for the impaired lung function,” said Dr Yatin Mehta, chairman, critical care department, Medanta Hospital.