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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Gujarat to SC: Wrote to Centre for hike in oxygen allocation

The shortfall appears to be creating maximum distress in rural areas, with the state admitting that 11,500 beds have had to be left unoperational despite requisite infrastructure being in place such as oxygen line and medical team, solely owing to “want of oxygen”.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
Updated: May 8, 2021 4:07:45 am
Written to Centre for enhancement in oxygen allocation: Gujarat government to SCGujarat on Friday reported 12,064 new Covid cases and 119 deaths, with 775 others on ventilators across the state, as per the daily state health bulletin. (PTI Photo)

The Gujarat government on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it has written to the Central government for enhancement in oxygen allocation to the state.

In an affidavit filed before the apex court, the state government also added that a static allocation of 975 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen from the Centre with no increase in supply despite increase in demand, expected to go up to 1,600 MT by May 15, “has been creating tremendous distress to the patients seeking hospitalization and oxygen therapy resulting in denial of medical treatment to the needy despite availability of beds…”

The shortfall appears to be creating maximum distress in rural areas, with the state admitting that 11,500 beds have had to be left unoperational despite requisite infrastructure being in place such as oxygen line and medical team, solely owing to “want of oxygen”.

The affidavit was filed by Chief Secretary Anil Mukim — in connection with the suo motu proceedings initiated by the Supreme Court in April taking cognisance of some key issues related to Covid-19 — in the form of a status report on various aspects of pandemic management in the state. Next hearing is expected to be on May 10.

Gujarat on Friday reported 12,064 new Covid cases and 119 deaths, with 775 others on ventilators across the state, as per the daily state health bulletin.

As a communication of the state to the Centre — annexed with the affidavit — shows the state had sought on May 5 that the Centre “immediately enhance allocation of medical liquid oxygen” to Gujarat to 1,200 MT for the day and to 1,400 MT for May 12.

In the status report, it has been submitted that the state addressed a communication on May 6 to the Central Government, requesting creation of a buffer stock of minimum 400 MT of liquid oxygen in Gujarat. The request comes after the Supreme Court suggested states to keep a buffer stock of oxygen ready and Gujarat suffering two shutdowns at two different oxygen manufacturing plant facilities —Sriram Oxy at Bhavnagar on April 25 and at Linde at Bharuch on April 27 — which had “placed a great strain in the supply chain”, the affidavit states.

Mukim’s communication to Union home secretary Anil Bhalla on May 6, which is part of the affidavit, also notes, “With great difficulty, the stress was mitigated. However, should a similar disruption were to happen again, then that would have life threatening consequences.”

Another communication by Mukim on May 5 to Bhalla reveals less allocation of oxygen to Gujarat against a growing demand. As per Mukim’s communication, the number of oxygen-equipped beds in various forms — ventilator, ICU without ventilator, non rebreather mask or nasal cannula — saw an increase of 6.4 per cent in a span of a week, with 57,368 such beds on May 5 as against 53,913 on April 26.

“The case positive rate is increasing in rural areas. Accordingly, our requirement of medical oxygen has gone up from projected 1,250 (MT) (April 30) to 1400 (MT) for today (May 5) and is likely to increase to 1,600 (MT) by May 15,” Mukim adds.

Mukim also notes that an additional 11,500 bed capacity in the state, equipped with oxygen line and medical team, cannot be operationalised because the state is unable to meet “with the rising demand for oxygen” and this is only causing “enormous distress in rural areas because now the Covid cases are picking up there, and yet, hospitalisation with oxygen therapy is not available resulting in long wait times before hospital admission”.

Seeking that Bhalla “appreciate the seriousness of the issue,” Mukim sought that an allocation of 1,200 MT per day be made to the state and further, when the demand is expected to go up to around 1,600 MT, the daily allocation for Gujarat be then fixed at 1,400 MT per day.

With respect to vaccination, the affidavit reveals that the three lakh doses received by Gujarat for the 18 to 44 years age group, remains to be fully utilised even after a week after vaccination of this group started in seven municipal corporations and three district jurisdictions, with approximately 2.24 lakh doses administered as of May 6.

Meanwhile, from the remaining three categories of health workers, frontline workers and those above 45 years of age, a total of 70,66,556 persons received the first dose and 28.69 lakh people in Gujarat are fully inoculated with both doses. Overall, less than 15 per cent of the state’s population, that is approximately 1.2 crore people, has received the vaccine dose since January 16 when the drive began.

As on May 6, the state had a total of 5.96 lakh doses available for the three categories.

Responding to the apex court’s earlier direction with respect to undertaking initiatives for immunisation of persons who do not have access to digital resources, Mukim submitted in his affidavit that “as on date, there is no offline system of registration in place”.

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