It's states' responsibility to ensure oxygen for Covid-19 patients, says Centre amid shortage
Centre's directive came amid reports of acute shortage of oxygen supply in hospitals in several states including the worst-hit Maharashtra where the official tally of cases is nearing 1 million-mark.
NEW DELHI: While acknowledging that there is a shortage of medical oxygen for Covid-19 patients in some states, the Centre on Friday put the onus of ensuring its availability solely on states.
The directive came amid reports of acute shortage of oxygen supply in hospitals in several states including the worst-hit Maharashtra where the official tally of cases is nearing 1 million-mark.
As per government figures, 3.7% of total 9,43,480 active Covid-19 patients are on oxygen support as on Friday. In absolute numbers, this translates to about 34,908 patients needing medical oxygen, a crucial supply to manage breathlessness, a common symptom among coronavirus patients.
The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that it has noted that few states are trying to curb the free inter-state movement of oxygen supplies by exercising provisions under various Acts.
The states are also mandating the manufacturers and suppliers located in a state to restrict their oxygen supplies to only the hospitals of the state, it added.
“In view of this, the health ministry has reiterated the critical importance of oxygen in hospitals for management of critical Covid-19 patients,” said the Union government.
In a letter written to states, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan stressed that the availability of adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen is an important prerequisite for managing moderate and severe cases of Covid-19.
The secretary also urged the states to ensure that no restriction is imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between them.
“It has been strongly reinforced that it is every state’s responsibility to ensure that every hospitalized Covid-19 patient receives oxygen,” the government added.
The Centre also reminded the states that medical oxygen constitutes an essential public health commodity and any impediment in the supplies of medical oxygen in the country may critically impact the management of patients suffering from Covid-19 disease in other parts of the country.
“Moreover, some of the major oxygen manufacturers and suppliers already have existing supply agreements with hospitals in various states with a legal obligation to fulfill such agreements, it added.
The ministry maintained that for moderate and severe cases, adequate oxygen support, appropriate and timely administration of anticoagulants, and widely available and inexpensive corticosteroids, in accordance with the protocol, can be considered to be the mainstay of Covid-19 therapy.
"Adequate supply of oxygen throughout the country has enabled effective clinical care of the hospitalised moderate and severe cases, in conjunction with other measures,” said the government claiming that the adopted host of strategies have actively resulted in a rising recovery rate and steadily declining case fatality rate, which now stands at 1.67%.
Public health experts meanwhile pointed out that these issues being faced now should have been anticipated and smoothened earlier.
“Medical oxygen cannot be produced out of thin air,” said Dr. Oommen John of New Delhi-based George Institute of Global Health. “While the early results from New York suggested the importance of oxygen as first line intervention, we had highlighted the need to improve health system capacity to detect hypoxia and ensure adequate supply of oxygen at all levels.”