‘No shortage’ of medical oxygen at national level: Health Secretary


NEW DELHI | SEPT 16, 2020:

There is absolutely "no shortage" of medical oxygen, vital in the treatment of coronavirus, at the national level, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday, while urging states to ensure proper inventory management at hospital-level and plan for timely replenishment so that there is no stockout.

Asked if there was an acute shortage of oxygen in different states and there had been deaths due to it, Health Ministry Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the country's current daily capacity of oxygen production as on date is slightly more than 6,900 metric tonne.

Referring to morning figures, Bhushan at a press briefing said that 3.69 per cent of the COVID-19 patients were on oxygen support, 2.17 per cent were in ICU beds which are with oxygen and 0.36 per cent of the patients were on ventilator support which is again with oxygen. This, he said, amounts roughly to around 6 per cent people in total.

"So what was the oxygen which was being consumed by these people plus that is consumed by non-COVID health services, if that is again taken (as per morning figure) that is 2,800 metric tonnes daily.

"So if we look at the industry's production and their requirement for oxygen it is 2,200 metric tonne which gives a total of 5,000 metric tonne consumption per day and headroom of 1,900 metric tonnes. So speaking at the national level there is absolutely no shortage of oxygen; there is a surplus of 1,900 metric tonnes on Tuesday," he said.

The problem, the official said, happens when there is no inventory management at facility-level.

Bhushan stressed that every state should ensure that there is oxygen inventory management at hospital-level and possible stockout alerts are generated so that it can be replenished on time.

"If a shortage is likely then immediate action should be taken to replenish it on time and help should be sought from the Centre," Bhushan said.

He further said that meetings have been held with states and they have also been asked to set up a control room for monitoring the situation of oxygen stock, and a virtual control room has also been set at the central level.

"States should monitor the oxygen availability and use it rationally," he said.

The Union Health Ministry on Monday held a virtual meeting with 29 states and UTs, including Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Ladakh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Delhi, Odisha, Punjab, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, and urged them to ensure adequate oxygen availability in all healthcare facilities and unrestricted intra as well as the inter-state movement of oxygen.

Union Health Secretary, Secretary DPIIT Secretary Pharmaceuticals and Secretary Textiles also participated in the meeting.

It was noted that 11 tankers in the state of Assam supply oxygen to most of the Northeastern states.

The states were asked to assess the need and then to press more tankers into action, repurpose similar vehicles for carrying oxygen, and take steps to reduce their turnaround time so that patients do not face any lack of oxygen, the ministry had said in a statement on Monday.

The states were specifically advised to ensure facility wise/hospital-wise oxygen inventory management and planning for timely replenishment so that there is no stockout.