Demand surpasses supply of oxygen in UP amid raging COVID-19 second wave

State needs abour 800 tonnes a day, but has only 600-650 tonnes

By Vivek Mishra
Published: Thursday 22 April 2021

Several areas of Uttar Pradesh, like many parts of the country, has been facing a critical shortage of medical oxygen even as the second phase of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rages on. Stocks were dangerously depleted in most hospitals.

Several hospitals reportedly had to turn away patients and advised families to take them to bigger urban centres.

India’s most populous state needs an average 850 tonnes oxygen a day, but has been receiving 600-650 tonnes only.

The situation can be understood from what the reputed Mayo Medical Centre Private Hospital Lucknow wrote to the state’s Chief Medical Officer:

“There is acute shortage of oxygen in our hospital. You promised to supply 400 oxygen cylinders but have not delivered. Our situation has deteriorated and we are unable to provide back-up of more than 15 minutes to patients.”

The hospital put up a notice at its entrance and also advised patients’ attendants to take them elsewhere, sources said.

The state government, however, pressed hospitals to keep 36 hours’ back-up but was yet to clarify where they could get stocks.

The state has already instructed its police to secure oxygen plants and asked for vehicles ferrying cylinders to be tracked via global positioning system. It also requested Centyre to provide the necessary oxygen.

It had, however, sought only around 400 tonnes. Also, a special train was planned to fetch another 400 tonnes from Bokaro Steel Plant, Jharkhand, but officials realised it would not be easy, a source said.

Government sources had earlier mentioned that oxygen supply was being arranged from the western UP and nearby regions like Modinagar, Panipat, Roorkee, etc.

When contacted by Down to Earth, UP’s Principal Secretary for food safety and drugs Anita Singh said she had to attend an important videoconference and couldn’t provide information about oxygen supply.

The state government April 20 had ordered that a balance between demand and supply of oxygen ne maintained. Supply to hospitals would be based on monitoring report of COVID-19 patients at L1, L2 and L3 hospitals, it had said, while seeking the 36-hours back-up.

The state added that oxygen manufactured in plants was to be made available for medical use only. Some 286 hospitals were connected to nearby industrial units producing oxygen. But there was no estimate of actual volumes of production and supply. Experts said such arrangements would not suffice.

The government also said it would establish five new oxygen plants. 

Apart from oxygen, UP also suffered a shortage of essential drugs like Remdisivir. The state received 3,500 dosages from Jubilant Life Sciences April 20, of which some 500 dosages were dispatched to Meerut. Cipla Pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, expressed inability to supply more.

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