Supreme Court-appointed task force holds first meeting, members give suggestions to increase oxygen production
The first meeting of the 12-member National Task Force of top medical experts to formulate a methodology for allocation of oxygen to states and union territories for saving lives of Covid-19 patients was held on Sunday, people aware of the development said. The task force was constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court.
At the meeting, the members commended the significant amount of work done by the various ministries and departments of the Centre in augmenting the oxygen production capacities as well as in ensuring its efficient distribution, the people cited above said.
The members of the task force also provided specific suggestions for further increasing oxygen production and availability, managing the demand side of medical oxygen, and parametres on which individual health facilities could ensure economy in use of medical oxygen, people aware of the meeting said on condition of anonymity.
Amid the worst wave of Covid-19 infections, which has overwhelmed healthcare facilities across the country, demand for medical oxygen has soared, and several states have sought more oxygen from the Centre, which is in charge of allocating what has become the most precious medical commodity right now.
Ordering the constitution of the task force in its May 6 order which was uploaded on the Supreme Court on Saturday, a bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said that the Union Cabinet Secretary will be its convenor and may nominate an officer not below the rank of Additional Secretary to depute for him, when necessary.
The members of the task force include Dr Bhabatosh Biswas, former Vice-Chancellor, West Bengal University of Health Sciences, Kolkata; Dr Devender Singh Rana, Chairperson, Board of Management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairperson and Executive Director, Narayana Healthcare, Bengaluru; Dr Gagandeep Kang, Professor, Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, Tamil Nadu; Dr J V Peter, Director, CMC; Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairperson and Managing Director, Medanta Hospital and Heart Institute, Gurugram, Dr Rahul Pandit, Director, Critical Care Medicine and ICU, Fortis Hospital, Mulund and Kalyan (Maharashtra); Dr Saumitra Rawat, Chairman & Head, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital; Dr Shiv Kumar Sarin, Senior Professor and Head of Department of Hepatology, and Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), Delhi; and Dr Zarir F Udwadia, Consultant Chest Physician, Hinduja Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital and Parsee General Hospital, Mumbai.
Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan and Union secretary (MoRTH) Giridhar Aramane were also present at the meeting along with NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria, ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava and Dr Sunil Kumar DGHS, Union health ministry as special invitees.
The top court made 12-point terms of reference which include assessing and making recommendations for the entire country based on the need for, availability and distribution of medical oxygen and to facilitate auditing by sub-groups within each state and union territory (UT).
The top court said that the task force will constitute sub-groups/committees of each state/UT for auditing and will comprise of an officer of the state/UT government not below the rank of secretary to the state government, an officer of the Centre not below the rank of additional/joint secretary and two medical doctors in the state/UT concerned including at least one with administrative experience of managing the medical facilities of a hospital and a representative from the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO).
The bench clarified that the purpose of the audit is not to scrutinise the decisions made in good faith by doctors while treating their patients but to ensure accountability in respect of the supplies of oxygen provided to every state/UT.
The bench said that the task force shall also submit its recommendations from time to time to the court and requested it to take up the pressing issue of determining the modalities for providing oxygen expeditiously within a week.