‘Planning ahead for oxygen contingencies is crucial’

CMC looking to install two more plants on its campus

May 19, 2021 12:08 am | Updated 12:08 am IST - CHENNAI

A medical oxygen plant at CMC Hospital, Vellore.  C. Venkatachalapath

A medical oxygen plant at CMC Hospital, Vellore. C. Venkatachalapath

Almost a year after installing an oxygen generator plant on its new campus at Kannigapuram in Ranipet district, the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, is looking to set up two more plants on its main campus.

While the plant enabled the hospital to generate its own oxygen supply on site, the high demand for oxygen and uncertainty in supplies has made it important to plan ahead for oxygen contingencies during pandemics, according to J.V. Peter, director of CMC.

“We started to plan to create a backup a year ago. Pre-COVID, our daily requirement was 2,500 to 3,000 cubic metres of oxygen. We reached a maximum consumption of 5,000 cubic metres per day in the first wave. Now, in the second wave, despite using alternative sources of oxygen, since the patients are more sick and most of them require high dose oxygen therapy, the consumption of liquid medical oxygen is approaching 7,000 cubic metres per day,” he said.

The oxygen generator plant at Kannigapuram has a capacity to generate 1,000 to 1,200 cubic metres of oxygen per day, which would benefit 100 to 120 patients in level 1 and 2 wards. In addition, an oxygen plant with a capacity of 600 cubic metres was installed on the main town campus. “This was to ensure that we do not have over-dependency on liquid oxygen. We have ordered two more oxygen generator plants, each of 500 to 600 cubic metres capacity for the main campus. It is awaited due to a huge demand in the country at this time,” Dr. Peter added.

The hospital has four sources of oxygen supply to the wards. “At the highest level, we have liquid oxygen for critically ill patients on ventilators. We have an oxygen manifold system for wards as a backup if liquid oxygen supply fails. This will last only around two hours. Third, we have the oxygen generation plants, and most recently, we acquired 100 bedside portable oxygen concentrators,” he said.

These bedside concentrators could each provide five to 10 litres of oxygen per minute. “All these measures have enabled CMC to manage over 1,000 patients with COVID-19, including 250 critically ill patients and the remaining majority needing oxygen with less than 75% of the projected requirements for liquid oxygen,” he pointed out.

Despite several measures that were undertaken to mitigate risk, the uncertainty of an assured and steady supply of liquid oxygen during the second wave of the pandemic was making the situation vulnerable, he said.

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