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Oxygen in Kashmir: The complete story

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An official overseeing Oxygen supply at a Govt hospital in Srinagar on Saturday (KM/Umar Ganie)

Srinagar: When the entire country is gasping for air, Kashmir is coping well and not facing any shortage of medical oxygen, albeit the COVID 19 cases are witnessing a huge spike.

As India touches 16 lakh active Covid-19 infections, a number of states have reported shortages of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) for a growing pool of COVID patients. India plans to import 50,000 metric tonnes of LMO to cater to the rising demand. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been directed to float a tender for the import, as per the reports.
The question is where Kashmir stands in terms of oxygen supply and demand.


Oxygen Supply in Hospitals

All the major Covid Hospitals of Srinagar maintained that they are coping well as they have adequate oxygen generation capacity, besides sufficient oxygen cylinders in stock.

“We have three oxygen concentrator plants with a capacity of more than 3000 liters per minute. We also have more than 974 bulk oxygen cylinders. So far, we are managing well. The hospital has also procured two more oxygen plants with a capacity of 1250 liters per minute. It is under installation, and will take a month or two,” a senior official at SKIMS Soura told The Kashmir Monitor.

Similarly, the Chest Diseases Hospital Srinagar, which mostly receives patients with high oxygen dependence, has not faced oxygen crunch so far.

“We have two oxygen generation plants with a capacity of 500 liters per minute, and 430 liters per minute. The hospital is also planning to install another oxygen generation plant in the coming days with a capacity of 1500 liters per minute. That will be commissioned in the first or second week of May,” Medical Superintendent, Chest Diseases Hospital, Srinagar, Dr. Salim Tak said.
The hospital has 300 bulk cylinders and 250 small-sized cylinders. Further, the daily consumption is 15 or 20 liter per bed on average.
“All the beds are occupied at the moment. 80 patients are admitted, 50 are admitted in Kashmir Nursing Home. We have a 13 bedded ICU in a CD hospital. Out of which are eight patients are on a non-invasive ventilator, and one is on mechanical
An official at SMHS said around 25-30 patients are admitted on an average per day.
“We see more than 50 pneumonia patients daily, but some of them don’t want to get admitted. They want to get managed at homes with domiciliary oxygen. Some are not sick enough to need hospital admissions,” he said.
The official said the hospital is not short of beds so far. “However, if people don’t take precautions, we are bound to be doomed like other Indian states,” he said.
Dr. Nazir Chowdhary, Medical Superintendent SMHS Hospital, Srinagar said the hospital has three oxygen generation plants with a capacity of 1000 liters per minute. “The fourth one is in the process of installation by Monday. Also, we have 1850 portable bulk cylinders, and 203 Covid dedicated beds,” he said.

NGOs flag concerns

Mohammed Afaaq Sayeed, Project Director Oxygen Kashmir, SRO Kashmir told The Kashmir Monitor that they get around 50-70 inquiries per day.

“The oxygen supply in hospitals might be adequate, but all the patients are not able to get the hospital admission. Also, moderately ill patients are discharged from the hospitals and are to be managed at home. In such a situation, they have to arrange an oxygen concentrator and cylinder. This is when they rush to us,” Sayeed said.

Sayeed said the SRO delivers around 10- 15 oxygen concentrators and 25-30 cylinders per day on average.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to procure more equipment as there are no supplies. Moreover, all the non–invasive equipment available with us is out of stock. We had some 25 machines and they are all with patients. It also reflects the gravity of the situation,” he said.
The NGO has more than 200 oxygen concentrators and 250 cylinders—medium and bulk, which can deliver up to 25 liters per minute of oxygen.

“We keep around 20 in stock. A lot of people don’t give back, and retrieving them is a challenge. Also, in the second wave, the volunteers have also decreased, which is another challenge for us,” he said.

Sayeed said the prices of medical oxygen equipment have also doubled. “For instance, we purchased a cylinder for 27,000 last year from Delhi. The same cylinder fetches at 50,000 rupees this year. If God Forbid, the same situation happens here, it will be a mess.”

Besides, the NGO is planning to procure some more medical equipment and cylinders. “The ICU spaces are shrinking in hospitals. So we are planning to create ICUs at the home set-up minus the ventilator. It will have an oxygen concentrator bed, a patient will be monitored by some paramedics, who have tied up with us,” Sayeed said.

A volunteer at Athrout said the NGO has around 235 oxygen concentrators.
“Out of which, 70-80 are in stock, and the rest are with the patients. The inquiries have definitely shot up. Now before giving away a concentrator, we ask for the prescription. If the oxygen need is for 10-15 hours, only then we hand over the oxygen machines. Those who have a need of 2-3 hours can be managed with cylinders,” he said.

The NGO, he added, has 37 auto BiPAP and CPAP machines of which 25 are currently with patients.

The managing body of Athrout, he said, is also planning to start an ‘Oxygen Baitulmaal‘.

“We will directly provide Oxygen to the patients at our head office with proper beds and paramedical support.

He said the NGO tried to buy some equipment lately but there is no supply.

Administration’s response

Health and Medical Education, Financial Commissioner J&K Atal Dullo told The Kashmir Monitor that the administration is planning to install oxygen generation plants in all the district hospitals, as well as 4-5 sub-district hospitals, and associated hospitals.

“That way, our dependence on the oxygen supply from outside will decrease. The installation process is on and by next week it will be complete,” he said.

As per the official figures, out of 2,500 oxygen-fitted beds, 534 oxygen-supported beds are occupied by Covid positive patients in Jammu and Kashmir.