The oxygen crisis in India has worsened in the last 48 hours. For the fourth day in a row, hospitals across the nation were on the verge of running out of oxygen. As the second outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic infects more people and sets new highs every day, SOS oxygen calls are in the headlines. States have asked for emergency assistance from the central government, and many hospitals have gone to the high courts to provide oxygen for their critically ill patients.
Many hospitals in several states are experiencing oxygen shortages, which has resulted in several deaths. After losing 25 patients, Delhi’s Sir Gangaram Hospital received an oxygen tanker, on Friday. The other major hospitals in Delhi are either out of oxygen or will only be able to function for a few hours longer. The Sir Aurobindo Hospital in Indore has posted a sign that reads, “No Oxygen.”
To meet the estimated demand of high-burden states — Maharashtra, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, UP, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and Haryana — the Centre-appointed Empowered Group-2, which is responsible for monitoring the supply of vital medical resources during the pandemic, has been focusing on over 17,000 tonnes of oxygen, which will be driven to these 12 states in three batches from states with excess capacity. The need for oxygen is expected to skyrocket in the coming days.
The central government, states, and the armed forces have all stepped in to help alleviate the shortage. Airlifting of 23 mobile and 2 generation plants from Germany is planned. These generators are capable of producing 40 litres of oxygen per minute. More oxygen production plants are likely to be imported from other countries. The IAF has been given emergency financial authority. Short-service commissioned doctors in the AFMS are being extended. 150 doctors are stationed at the DRDO hospital. The Delhi Cantt base hospital has been transformed into a covid centre for the IAF. The Indian Air Force has sent five aircrafts to help with oxygen delivery.
In the midst of this, NewsX recommends course of action to ensure the success of ‘Mission Oxygen’. One of the first moves would be for the Navy to provide oxygen through the use of its plants, docklands, steel, and shipbuilding. The production of ‘Portable Multi-feed Oxygen Manifold’ that is being manufactured at Visakhapatnam dockyard, should be increased.
For soldiers stationed in extreme high-altitude zones, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed the SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) supplementary Oxygen Delivery System. The GOI can make it available to Covid patients as soon as possible. Hospitals can use oxygen enrichment units designed by the CSIR’s Indian Institute of Petroleum. It can provide up to 500 litres of oxygen per minute. It can be set up in 50-100 sq. ft. areas inside hospitals for on-site production of Oxygen.
ISRO acquires Oxygen from industry for use in its cryogenic engines, which run on liquid hydrogen and liquid Oxygen. The Centre should devise a proposal for launching medical-grade Oxygen manufacturing and making it available to Covid patients. The Indian Army can assist the government by using its resources. Army trucks may be used to coordinate cylinder deliveries.