With a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the State, the demand for medical oxygen has shot up by over 150 metric tonnes in the last one month. The current availability for medical purposes is 375 metric tonnes per day.
While it had increased from 120 metric tonnes per day on an average during the pre-COVID-19 period to nearly 450 metric tonnes per day till August, the current demand is nearly 600 metric tonnes per day. Doctors handling critical COVID-19 patients said the consumption per patient per day has increased from six litres two months ago to nearly 30 litres.
Gaurav Gupta, Principal Secretary, Commerce and Industries, who is monitoring the oxygen supply chain in the State, told The Hindu on Thursday that there has been a substantial rise in oxygen consumption over the last one month.
“Although the cases have surged, there have been an equal number of recoveries. However, more hospitals, especially in the districts, have converted normal beds to oxygen-equipped beds. They increased the number of high-flow devices, like ventilators and high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) equipment, in the ICUs,” he said.
“We have progressively curtailed industrial consumption to make more oxygen available for medical purposes. On an average, we are diverting nearly 200 metric tonnes of industrial oxygen per day for medical use. We are carefully monitoring the production and supply on a daily basis. The focus is on ensuring uninterrupted supply of oxygen so that no patient suffers because of lack of oxygen availability,” said Mr. Gupta, who is also the BBMP Administrator.
Raising the issue during the video conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa had said it was important to “incentivise” industries to set up new oxygen generation units.
“While the current availability is sufficient for the time being, the peak demand of medical oxygen is calculated to be about 870 metric tonnes per day as Karnataka will have some 31,000 oxygenated beds in government hospitals alone,” the Chief Minister told the Prime Minister urging the Centre to rope in more industries to meet the demand.
“When the pandemic began, the State had nearly 7,000 oxygenated beds in government hospitals. This has been increased to about 18,000. More than 10,000 of these beds have been reserved for COVID-19 patients. Apart from this, another 4,250 oxygenated beds have been reserved for COVID-19 patients in private hospitals,” the Chief Minister apprised the Prime Minister.
Sources in the State Drugs Control Department told The Hindu that there is a need to increase the production of hospital-level oxygen generation units.
“While there is adequate availability as of now, there are issues with transportation and storage at the hospitals. We have seven manufacturing plants and 47 refilling units. We are initiating measures to increase production in the coming days,” sources said.
Following increase in demand, the price of oxygen being supplied to hospitals has also shot up.
R. Ravindra, president of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA), said bigger hospitals that have a long-term contract with suppliers are not facing any issues. However, smaller hospitals with short-term contracts or those who want new contracts are forced to pay double the price, he said.
Although the Centre has capped the price at ₹17.49 per cubic metre plus GST, hospitals are forced to pay around ₹40 per cubic metre, he claimed
“We are unable to manage with the ₹7,000 package fixed by the State government for an oxygenated bed for government-referred patients. We will meet soon to discuss this and seek an enhancement in the rate,” Dr. Ravindra said.