As the Covid-19 cases continue to rise unabated, the medical oxygen, which is a critical component in the treatment of the novel Coronavirus-affected patients will need to keep pace with the requirements of the states.
In view of the development, the inter-ministerial Empowered Group (EG2) has assessed that “the current oxygen stocks of the country, including the industrial oxygen stocks with the manufacturing plants are more than 50,000 MTs. Along with the ramped up production of the oxygen manufacturing units and the surplus stocks available, the present availability of oxygen is sufficient. At the same time, states are being asked to make rational use of medical oxygen and ensure there is no wastage of oxygen. Besides, states must set up Control Rooms to ensure smooth supply of oxygen to the districts as per need, review requirement of cylinders, tankers, etc,” according to a statement of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW).
EG2 was constituted under the chairmanship of Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industries and Internal Trade (DPIIT) during the outbreak of Inter-ministerial Empowered Group Spells out Measures to Ensure Supply of ‘Critical’ Medical Oxygen to Covid Affected States in March 2020, to make available the essential medical equipment, including medical oxygen to the affected states. It consists of senior officers from various ministries and departments, including MoHFW, the Ministry of Textiles, the Ministry of AYUSH, and the Ministry of MSME.
EG2 has also observed that there is an “unusual” rise in the demand of medical oxygen as well as “steep” rise in projections in the demand for medical oxygen as of April 30 2021 in some states vis-a-vis the active Covid cases. It has also noted the “inordinate” surge in demand in such states and directed the MoHFW to examine the same for “rational” use of oxygen in coordination with the states concerned, the statement added.
According to MoHFW, EG2 has initiated several measures to ensure the supply of medical oxygen to various affected states:
1. Increase oxygen production as per production capacity of each oxygen manufacturing plant; this has resulted in 100% production in the oxygen manufacturing units, ramping up availability of oxygen in the country
2. Utilise the surplus stocks available with steel plants. The stock availability from steel plants has increased in last few days, with 14,000 MTs coming from stocks of the CPSUs steel plants alone, and this has helped ramp up total LMO stocks in the country
3. Map the requirements of top states with oxygen sources, including with sources across the state borders and those available at steel plants, for greater clarity and assurance for the states on the oxygen sourcing. Thus, Maharashtra has been able to lift surplus medical oxygen on daily basis from steel plants like JSW in Dolvi (Maharashtra), SAIL in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh) and from JSW in Bellary (Karnataka). Similarly, Madhya Pradesh is able to supplement its oxygen supply from the Steel plant in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh)
4. The challenge presently is to move oxygen from states with less necessity to states with increased necessity. Mapping of the surplus sources with states that have a greater need for oxygen, such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, etc is being finalised, in consultation with the manufacturers, states and other stakeholders. This has been undertaken through coordinated planning between the Government of India and state governments to map their requirements up to 30 April 2021 with the available sources and stocks of oxygen in the country
5. A sub-group has been formed under Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) with Ministry of Railways and transport departments of States to facilitate the movement of transport tankers for Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO). Moving of oxygen tankers by rail is also being actively worked out
6. Some of the key decisions taken in the context of seamless movement of oxygen tankers is as follows:
a. Orders have been given by PESO (Petroleum and Safety Organisation) for conversion of argon and nitrogen tankers for use as oxygen tankers; thereby the fleet available for transportation of tankers has been enhanced;
b. Free movement of oxygen tankers inter-state has been facilitated through MoRTH without registration in the other states;
7. Further, mapping of cylinders state wise has been done and industrial cylinders have been permitted to be used for medical oxygen after due purging;
8. Placing of orders for the purchase of another one lakh oxygen cylinders by MoHFW is also being undertaken;
9. PSA plants sanctioned under PM-Cares are being closely reviewed for early completion of 100% of the plants to enhance self-generation of oxygen in hospitals especially in remote areas.
10. Daily reviews with the high burden states are being jointly done by DPIIT with MoHFW and Steel Ministry. Oxygen manufacturers are also present in these meetings, as are the Steel units. This results in hand holding of the States for facilitating oxygen supply, resolving any inter-state issues on supply or tanker movement, etc