Hospitals face oxygen shortage, Centre increases states' quota
New Delhi, Apr 21: As India saw another record high of 2,95,041 new Covid cases and 2,023 deaths, the oxygen crisis precipitated by the second wave appeared to intensify with complaints of shortage from several states, including Maharashtra where tragedy struck when 24 patients on ventilator support suffocated to death due to leakage in an oxygen storage tank.
The Centre announced on Wednesday evening that it was increasing the quota of oxygen in eight states, including Delhi, in view of the sudden spike in demand due to an exponential rise in the number of Covid patients admitted in hospitals.
Noting that 7,500 MT of oxygen was being produced in the country per day and 6,600 MT is being allocated to states for medical purposes, the Centre said the Union government and state governments need to work together and respond promptly to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The central government announced that the quota of Maharashtra has been increased from 1,646 to 1,661 MT, from 445 to 543 MT in Madhya Pradesh, from 156 to 162 MT in Haryana, from 751 MT to 753 MT in UP and from 126 MT to 136 MT in Punjab.
The allocation has been raised from 360 MT to 440 MT in Andhra Pradesh, from 83 MT to 103 MT in Uttarakhand and from 378 MT to 480 MT in Delhi.
The Centre's response came as Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra indulged in a blame game and squabbled over oxygen supply and distribution while demanding an increase in their quota.
On Wednesday, several hospitals in the national capital like Sir Ganga Ram City Hospital, St Stephen's Hospital and Holy Family Hospital in Okhla said they only had oxygen for two to five hours. Other hospitals too had been facing a depleting stock for the last few days.
Later in the evening, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had claimed a "serious oxygen crisis", said that Delhi's oxygen quota has been increased and thanked the Centre.
Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia accused the Haryana government of blocking medical oxygen supply to Delhi, but the Haryana government vehemently refuted the allegations.
Haryana health minister Anil Vij said given the increased demand for oxygen due to a surge in coronavirus cases, his state can spare the supply for others only after meeting its demand.
He alleged that a tanker carrying medical oxygen for COVID patients in hospitals, which was going from Panipat to Faridabad, was ''looted'' by the Delhi government and said all oxygen tankers will now move with a police escort.
In Maharashtra, which has the highest number of cases, 24 patients on ventilator support at the Dr Zakir Husain Hospital in Nashik suffocated to death when their oxygen supply stopped suddenly because of a malfunction in the main storage.
The government will probe if the tragedy was due to negligence, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.
Nashik was the worst-hit city in the country in terms of cases per million residents, according to the Union health ministry's data compiled between March 16 and April 15 from major cities.
On the vaccination front, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh were the latest to announce free jabs for all aged above 18 years, after Uttar Pradesh and Assam made a similar decision, and officials presented data to assert that the vaccines reduce the risk of infection and prevent death and severe infection.
At a press conference, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul appealed to the states, hospitals and nursing homes to ensure rational use of oxygen as it was "life-saving" drug for the coronavirus infected patients.
The country was struggling to sustain the medical oxygen supply lines as the active cases crossed the 21-lakh mark with the 2,95,041 fresh infections in a span of 24 hours, pushing India's total tally of Covid-19 cases to 1,56,16,130.