Oxygen demand expected to touch 1,500 tonnes a day in Karnataka

Ambulances from various hospitals collecting oxygen cylinders from Universal Gas factory at Peenya in Bengaluru on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

With the demand for liquid medical oxygen projected to touch 1,500 tonnes a day by next month in the State, if the upward trajectory continues at the same rate, the State government has written to the Centre seeking additional allocation. The Centre has presently allocated 300 tonnes a day of oxygen to Karnataka.

According to the State’s projection, the requirement is likely to touch 500-600 tonnes a day by this month-end and further go up next month.

The demand for oxygen has come to such a point in the city that several hospitals are now asking patient families to give an undertaking that they will arrange for an ICU and critical care if the patient’s condition deteriorates.

“We have been getting calls from many desperate families who have been asked to give an undertaking that they will arrange for an ICU if the condition worsens,” said Ameen-e-Mudassar, member of the Emergency Response Team, a volunteer group.

There are seven liquid oxygen plants in Karnataka which together manufacture 812 tonnes of oxygen per day. The State is facing a crisis currently despite this owing largely to problems in storage and refilling.

“We have adequate oxygen in our plants but smaller hospitals do not have storage facilities as they have been managing by refilling small cylinders so far. Now with increased consumption, the refilling has to be done at least three times a day and this is where the problem lies,” said Health and Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar

Pointing out that JSW has agreed to give 40 tonnes to Bengaluru, he said 5,000 additional cylinders are also being procured. Another company has agreed to give 500 more cylinders under CSR funds.

With complaints pouring in regarding shortage and blackmarketing of oxygen and Remdesivir, the State government has set up a 24/7 call centre that can handle ten calls at a time.

Passing an order to this effect, the State Drugs Controller appointed 26 officers to work in three shifts and facilitate and coordinate oxygen and Remdesivir supply.

Artificial scarcity

The Health Department on Wednesday initiated action against Assistant Drugs Controller B.R. Venkatesh and placed him under suspension for creating artificial scarcity of the vital drug.

Calling the current surge in COVID-19 cases an “unprecedented situation”, Dr. Sudhakar called upon people to not rush to hospitals just as they test positive. “Over 95% of cases - all asymptomatic and mild - can be managed at home under the supervision of our telemedicine specialists. If those with mild symptoms go and get admitted, a critical patient who needs hospitalisation will be deprived of medical care, which can be fatal,” he said.

‘Remdesivir not for all’

Consultant pulmonologist at Apollo Hospitals Ravindra Mehta, who is part of the State’s COVID-19 expert committee, said the panic over non-availability of Remdesivir is unnecessary as not all require this injection.

“Only those with moderate and severe infection wherein the oxygen saturation drops below 93 within the first nine days of illness are eligible for Remdesivir. It is only an add-on therapy and can help in improving the patient’s condition. While the WHO says it does not impact on mortality, previous literature has shown that it can hasten recovery and reduce hospital stay,” he said. He added that the demand can be reduced if it is given to only those who require it.

All small hospitals with less than 30 beds will now have to treat only non-COVID-19 patients. An order to this effect will be issued. This is to prevent loss of lives due to logistical issues.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 3:44:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/oxygen-demand-expected-to-touch-1500-tonnes-a-day-in-karnataka/article34380666.ece

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