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Oxygen and Covid preparedness

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File photo of a doctor setting Oxygen levels at a government hospital in Srinagar - KM/Umar Ganie

Several states of India are gasping for air. Availability or shortage of medical oxygen in hospitals across India has become the difference between life and death. Major cities like Delhi or Maharashtra have been brought to their knees by this new wave of COVID-19 which is more virulent and deadly. Oxygen all of a sudden has become the most prized entity in India so much so that Delhi High Court on Tuesday slammed centre and directed it to immediately implement an order to stop oxygen for industrial use to meet the demand by hospitals, ramp up medicine supplies and vaccinate more people. In Jammu and Kashmir too, the situation is equally bad. Srinagar’s Chest Diseases (CD) hospital is running out of oxygen beds as COVID-19 numbers have shot up meteorically in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier this week, Professor and Head of Department, Chest Medicine, Dr Naveed Nazir said that out of the around 100 beds with oxygen facility at the hospital, 90 per cent were occupied. Though at present, the situation, on the face of it, seems to be in control, it can fast slip away if the number of critical patients and those requiring oxygen facility continue to rise. As for the government, it claims that its entire machinery is all set to combat the serious challenge caused by the second wave of the pandemic with all requisite measures in place to keep Covid-19 surge in control. On Tuesday, Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Rajan Prakash Thakur took stock of oxygen concentration centres, buffer stock of Oxygen cylinders and availability of beds for Covid patients at Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), in Soura. He claimed that there was adequate buffer stock of oxygen cylinders available and people did not need to panic. He even went on to say that not a single patient shall die for want of Oxygen in J&K. The authorities are saying that there is no shortage of oxygen at this point. They say that there are sufficient beds available for everyone who is ill with Covid-19. The administration has also taken the decision to divert oxygen from all non-medical uses to medical use in view of the prevailing situation to ensure its abundant availability in all hospitals. As far as SKIMS Soura is concerned, the institution has reserved 260 beds for Covid patients and 156 Covid patients are presently admitted in the hospital. The current consumption rate of oxygen at the institute is 3.93 lakhs litre per hour and an additional required amount of oxygen is 1.5 lakh per hour. One hopes and prays that the situation in Kashmir does not get out of control. However, the authorities must ensure that they are well prepared for any eventuality. It is a time of crisis and being prepared is the only way we can pass through it.