Don’t Have Enough Medical Oxygen, Need More: K’taka Chief Secy
Though the state government has written to the Union government, they are yet to receive a reply.
Chief Secretary of Karnataka P Ravi Kumar said that the state urgently required more oxygen. The situation had been communicated to the Union government even as recently as 30 April, when the State Health and Family Welfare Department wrote to the Centre, he said.
On 4 May, Karnataka woke up to the tragic news of 24 patients dying at Chamarajanagar Institute of Medical Sciences (CIMS) due to low oxygen supply. In a few hours, at least three hospitals in Bengaluru city sent frantic messages, alerting authorities of their dwindling oxygen supply. By the night, two more had died. According to figures provided by the Karnataka government, the situation is expected to become even more grave if the cases do not decrease.
“The amount of medical oxygen allotted earlier to us was 300 MT per day. It was increased to 865 tonnes. But we shall need 1,792 tonnes per day. We have informed the Union government about this,” the chief secretary told TNM.
Six private manufacturers, including JSW Steel and Praxair, in the state have a combined medical oxygen production capacity of 825 tonnes per day. Of this, Karnataka’s allocation was around 300 tonnes per day. As cases of COVID infection started increasing, the state wrote to the Union government and the allocation was increased to 865 tonnes per day. Out of this, 675 tonnes was from liquid oxygen produced in Karnataka and the rest was to be diverted from other states.
Kumar said that around 140 tonnes of medical oxygen was being diverted from oxygen plants in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
But this amount would not be enough for Karnataka, where that entire allotment is being used daily in addition to its reserves. As of 3 May, Karnataka had a total of 4,44,734 active COVID-19 patients. Though the state had written to the Union government, they were yet to received a response.
“The problem is that not only are patients increasing, but the requirement for oxygen is also rising,” the chief secretary pointed out. He also adds that while supply of medical oxygen faces a shortage, there are logistical issues and other distribution problems.
“We don’t have enough oxygen, so logistically it’s tough. These hospitals that are running out of oxygen depend on cylinders. Earlier, they used to fill a cylinder once in three days. Now they have to fill it three times in a day. And even this filling takes time. Even if a tanker goes from Bengaluru to Ballari (where most plants are situated), it takes four to five hours to fill up and then it has to travel back to Bengaluru,” he said.
The chief secretary said that they have asked hospitals to send messages 48 hours in advance so that the government can make alternate arrangements.
“We (the government) do not produce oxygen, we are only facilitating the supply,” he said.
(This story was first published on The News Minute and has been republished here with permission.)
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