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With a wary eye on surging cases, Punjab says enough oxygen for occupied beds

But private hospital sources that The Indian Express spoke to in Amritsar, which saw six deaths due to oxygen shortage on Saturday, said that the setting up of control rooms itself pointed to oxygen supply stress in the state.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar |
Updated: April 26, 2021 4:31:40 am
With a wary eye on surging cases, Punjab says enough oxygen for occupied bedsA worker at the new oxygen-generating plant set up at the Civil Hospital in Ludhiana. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

As it established oxygen control rooms across districts and started a helpline to receive shortage SOS messages, the Punjab government claimed that the state’s oxygen availability, as on Sunday, was double than its number of Covid beds.

But private hospital sources that The Indian Express spoke to in Amritsar, which saw six deaths due to oxygen shortage on Saturday, said that the setting up of control rooms itself pointed to oxygen supply stress in the state. Even CM Amarinder Singh shot an SOS letter to Union Health Ministry seeking an urgent increase in state’s oxygen quota while pointing to the spiralling case load.

However, Punjab’s nodal officer for Covid-19, Rajesh Bhaskar, said that the state has enough oxygen for now.

“We have 136 MT oxygen against requirement of 120 MT. We count our requirement of oxygen ‘per bed’. We have around 50 per cent occupancy on Level-3 beds and around 30 per cent occupancy on Level-2 beds. So, right now we have availability of almost double of the oxygen that we require now according to the occupancy of beds,” said Bhaskar.

He added: “We have established control rooms and issued helpline numbers in case anyone is in need of oxygen. These helplines will remain open 24 hours. Anyone can call and demand oxygen.”

Punjab Health System Corporation chairman Amardeep Singh Cheema said, “Oxygen situation will be examined after every four hours in the state so that oxygen can be allocated where it is needed most. Every district has now nodal officer to manage oxygen supply. We have also sent demand to central government. We have around 200 oxygen concentrators and these are to be distributed across the state based on cases reported in district. Total 289 Covid patients are on oxygen support and 13 on ventilators in Amritsar.”

A local oxygen producer in Amritsar said, “There are government men outside our plant. We are just producing oxygen. It is decision of government to whom they want to sell it. We will send the bills to the government. Government is in full control of supply chain.”
Government sources argued that the control rooms were to avoid bottlenecks that can lead to tragedy.

“Now we have helpline numbers and control rooms in place. Here hospitals or individuals can make their demand. No one can allege that their call was not responded. Also now administration can’t ignore any call for help on given numbers,” said a senior government official.

Jaspreet Singh Grover, secretary, Indian Medical Association, said, “Right now district administration has taken all the control of oxygen supply in district. Administration is providing oxygen to government hospital and private hospitals with big capacity for Covid-19 patients. District administration has told small private hospitals to send patients to government hospitals in case they don’t have required oxygen.”

“What would happen if occupancy increases suddenly and more and more patients are shifted to reserved Level-2 and Level-3 beds?” asked a private doctor. Sources pointed to an urgent need to augment oxygen supply to prepare for the worst.

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