BENGALURU: Lending its might in the fight against the highly infectious second wave of the Novel Coronavirus, steel major JSW Steel has come forward to build a makeshift 1,000-bed facility with oxygen at Toranagallu, about 30 km from Ballari. “The hospital has been envisaged to help Covid-19 patients from North Karnataka get oxygen and timely treatment,” said sources.
The demand for oxygen, which had not surpassed 1,500 metric tons per day at a national level during the first wave, has in no time increased to around 6,000 metric tons, leading to a panic situation in the country. Karnataka, with a high case load, has been no exception to this unprecedented demand for oxygen.
Sources said that the work on the first-of-its-kind hospital in the state has already started at break-neck speed and is scheduled to be completed in a phased manner shortly. A 4-km oxygen pipeline is being laid to supply oxygen to the hospital beds. “While JSW is setting up the infrastructure, the Karnataka Government will provide human resources such as doctors, nurses, technicians and staff to operate the hospital,” said sources.
The idea behind setting up the hospital near Ballari is largely because of the easy availability of oxygen. There are four oxygen plants - Linde/Praxair, Bellary Oxygen Company (BOC), Air Water Separation Ltd and Industrial Gases Ltd - on the sprawling 8,000-acre JSW campus, which are now supplying more than 600 MT of liquid medical oxygen on a daily basis. Of this, about 60 per cent is being supplied to Karnataka, said sources. Transportation of oxygen is difficult and time-consuming because it is highly inflammable. Therefore, a hospital near the oxygen plants will help patients who need immediate oxygen, the sources added.
Meanwhile, oxygen supply in Karnataka seems to have improved since last week. “The Centre, on the request of the State Government, has increased the allocation of medical oxygen from 300 MT to 802 MT per day and has assured further allocation should there be a further spike in demand. Out of the 802 MT, 50 tons has been allocated from Kalinganagar in Odisha and 30 tons from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh,” said the sources. The Chief Secretary had requested the Centre for an allocation of 1,400MT of medical oxygen by the first week of May keeping in mind the sudden surge in Covid-19 cases and an unprecedented demand for oxygen.
The State Government has also roped in 20 more tankers for oxygen supply besides the 94 tankers that are now supplying only medical grade oxygen. With the situation in Maharashtra improving due to a steady decrease in cases, the Centre may allocate some more oxygen to neighbouring states including Karnataka, the source added.