Video Producer : Mayank Chawla
Video Editors: Mohd Irshad and Sandeep Suman
With a record number of coronavirus deaths on 12 May, India continues to reel under the pressure of shortage of life-saving oxygen and COVID vaccines. The second wave of COVID-19 pandemic has caught the country off guard and exposed glaring gaps in health infrastructure and the government’s preparedness in dealing with a crisis which came with warning signs.
A major contributing factor of this under preparedness was the accelerating demand of oxygen by hospitals and the absence of medical infrastructure and transportation to support the same.
The alarm bells have already been sounded by many states for increasing the quantity of oxygen over and above the allocation.
Speaking to The Quint, Siddharth Jain, director of INOX Air Products, said the demand for medical oxygen has shot up to 8,500 tonnes a day. India manufactured 7,000 tonnes of oxygen in the month of March 2020, out of which 700 tonnes were used as medical oxygen.
When the first wave of coronavirus hit the nation, the demand of medical oxygen went up to 3,000 tonnes a day, with the active number of cases at around 10 lakh.
“Today, the same demand has shot up to 8,500 tonnes, with at least 38 lakh active number of cases. This is over and above the production capacity and after diverting all the industrial oxygen supply for the production of medical oxygen.”Siddharth Jain, Director, INOX Air Products
The Herculean effort of increasing the production of medical oxygen within four weeks was met with another hindrance in the supply chain – limited oxygen manufacturing units. At present, India has 70 of these units while the demand from every corner of the country has mounted pressure.
“We need to increase the number of road tankers and the storage capacity at the hospitals so that a back up could be created for at least three to four days.”Siddharth Jain, Director, INOX Air Products
However, the road tankers involved in transportation of oxygen were originally meant for the transportation of argon and nitrogen gases. The conversion of these tankers has helped in increasing the oxygen fleet by at least 50 percent, says Jain.
Interestingly, Jain also pointed at the fact that the PSA system for supplying oxygen at hospitals is low-purity plants and should only be used as ‘backups’. This comes at a time when the Modi government has announced to set up 551 PSA plants across public health facilities of the country using the PM-CARES Fund.
Jain added that around the world, hospitals do not have oxygen generation plants as these are very highly specialised processes. The hospital’s job does not include production of electricity, medicine or oxygen.