Over 500 Pressure Swing Adsorption medical oxygen generation plants will be set up in public health facilities across the country through the PM Cares Fund amid a severe shortage of supplies, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Sunday.
The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations fund had received over Rs 3,000 crore in donations within four days after it was set up on March 27, 2020, to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed that these medical oxygen generation plants should be made functional as soon as possible, according to a statement from his office. These oxygen plants use Pressure Swing Adsorption technology to separates gases from a mixture in the atmosphere to generate concentrated oxygen that can be supplied to hospital beds through a pipeline, negating the need for hospitals to buy pressurised liquid oxygen from other sources.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that the PM Cares Fund had on January 5 allocated Rs 201.58 crores for installation of additional 162 dedicated Pressure Swing Adsorption medical oxygen generation plants inside public health facilities in the country. But the central government took eight months into the pandemic to float a tender, a Scroll.in investigation found. Six months later, only 33 of 162 plants have been installed despite a deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping through the country.
Modi’s office on Sunday said the 551 plants will serve as a major boost to oxygen availability at the district level. It added that these dedicated plants will be established in identified government hospitals in district headquarters in various states and Union Territories, whose procurement will be done through the health ministry.
Crippling oxygen shortage in India
As coronavirus cases in the country surge at an unprecedented scale, hospitals across the country are facing an acute shortage of oxygen.
At least 20 coronavirus patients in Delhi died on Saturday after Jaipur Golden Hospital ran out of oxygen. A day earlier, 25 “sickest” coronavirus patients died overnight at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi amid a last-minute scramble for oxygen. The situation is worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop admissions of new patients.
Earlier this week, the Centre had announced that the Indian Railways will run special trains to supply oxygen to states and Union Territories, as several of them are facing a shortage.
The Centre has also decided to prohibit supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, in order to divert the stock for medical use. But as per an analysis by Scroll.in, India’s daily requirement of medical oxygen is currently more than double the amount that has been exempted from industrial use – 4,600 metric tonnes. And the country may run out of stocks in a few weeks even if all industrial oxygen is diverted to medical use.
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