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In 11 states, less than 25% of oxygen plants operational: Govt

The ministry also said that 35%, or 425, of the total 1,222 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants sanctioned by the Centre since October 2020 have become operational so far.
A worker filling oxygen cylinders to provide hospitals for medical use in the Modern Gas Company plant at Ambernath near Mumbai on May 9, 2021. (HT PHOTO)
Updated on Aug 28, 2021 04:28 AM IST
By Chetan Chauhan and Hitender Rao, New Delhi, Chandigarh

The Union health ministry has put 11 states under the “red” category for making less than 25% of the total sanctioned medical oxygen plants in these states operational, according to a health ministry presentation to the state governments.

The ministry also said that 35%, or 425, of the total 1,222 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants sanctioned by the Centre since October 2020 have become operational so far. And about 50% of the remaining are likely to be operational by September 15, officials said.

A comparison of the ministry’s presentation with the reply submitted to Parliament on July 20 shows that 190 new plants have been made ready in the last 37 days. Till July 20, 245 plants were up and running.

The Centre announced that new oxygen plants will be set up across the country after the April-May peak of Covid-19 triggered an unprecedented shortage of medical oxygen, with reports suggesting there may have been hundreds of deaths nationwide during this period because the gas was in short supply.

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In October 2020, during the first wave of Covid-19 cases, the central government invited tenders for 162 PSA oxygen plants -- by April 2021, only 33 of these were operational, according to a tweet by the Union health ministry on April 18.

“We are regularly holding review meetings with the state health departments on oxygen plants to speed up the commissioning work,” said a senior health ministry official, at a meeting with state health departments.

The official said that most of the states have assured the Centre that they will cross the 50% mark by September 15, and all the plants would be commissioned latest by December end this year. “We have been asking them to ensure most plants are running as early as possible,” the official said.

To motivate the states, the ministry had put all states and Union territories under three categories depending on the number of oxygen plants that have been made operational.

Red states are the states where up to 25% of the sanctioned plants are functioning, orange states have 25-50% of the sanctioned plants operational, and green, the best, such as Haryana and Gujarat, have over 50% plants running.

According to the ministry presentation, Andaman and Nicobar Island has not been able to start even a single of the three plants sanctioned, while Mizoram could make only 1 of the 14 operational.

An official of Andaman & Nicobar administration said there was delay in getting the equipment and the plant would be operational by September end. “The slow progress has been due to variety of reasons. Some hospitals where the plants are to be installed are at restoration stage. Once those issues are sorted, we should be able to commission all the plants,” said R Lalramnghaka, Mizoram’s special secretary, health and family welfare.

Rajasthan, which has been able to make only 10 of the 51 plants sanctioned functional, has informed the health ministry that all the plants will be running by September 15. A Rajasthan health department official, on condition of anonymity, said, “There was delay on account of manpower issues. We have 12 plants installed and another 15 are under process. Only at four places, the civil work by the state government is pending,” the official said.

The other states in the red zone are Chhattisgarh (16%), Madhya Pradesh (20%), West Bengal (20%), Himachal (21%), Bihar (23%), Jharkhand (24%), Tripura, and Meghalaya. A West Bengal official there is some delay in the supply but every day one or two plants are being commissioned. “There would be substantial progress by the mid of September. Work is going on,” the official said.

With inputs from bureaus in Jaipur, Kolkata, Guwahati and Chandigarh)

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