A day after it emerged that the sub-group constituted by the Supreme Court for the oxygen audit of Delhi was divided over its report questioning the Delhi government’s demand for liquid medical oxygen (LMO) during the peak of the second Covid-19 wave, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, one of the five members of the panel, said the findings are “interim” and “one should wait for the final report”.
He told The Sunday Express that the endeavour should be to “develop micro hospital-based planning and maintain supplies equal to the demand”.
Asked about the discrepancy in the LMO demand, Dr Guleria said: “First, this is sub judice and it’s only an interim report and one should wait for the final report. Second, our calculation is based on the Government of India formula, which is being used by all states, based on oxygen consumption for ICU and non-ICU wards where all beds will not have oxygen patients. Based on that, we calculated.”
“A different formula was used by the Delhi government, which is why the discrepancy was there. And there was a presentation which looked at the actual consumption, which was also less than the demand,” he said.
His remarks came a day after the report’s findings set off a political firestorm with the BJP targeting the AAP government in Delhi which hit back.
It was learnt that two from the five-member panel, Delhi Principal Secretary (Home) BS Bhalla and Max Healthcare Clinical Director (Internal Medicine) Sandeep Budhiraja, had filed their dissent on the interim findings, and even skipped one of the sittings of the panel. They flagged their objections in two separate notes.
In a file noting of the Delhi Home Department, Bhalla also highlighted that the “interim report seems to have been sent to Government of India without making the requisite changes, without sharing again with the members of the sub-group, and without their formal approval”.
“The interim report, as submitted, does not have the approval of all the members of the sub-group,” he wrote.
Bhalla, Budhiraja, Guleria, Jal Shakti Ministry Joint Secretary Subodh Yadav and Controller of Explosives, PESO Sanjay Kumar Singh make the sub-group constituted by the Supreme Court last month.
On Saturday, Dr Guleria said issues related to supply and organisation of distribution were key to the public health response on oxygen supply.
“What really came out was that more than the need, it is supply and organisation of distribution which is important. That is why I am saying it is an interim report. Because there has to be a regular supply chain and a good distribution mechanism to ensure regular availability. There may not be that much of a shortage if there is a smooth supply chain mechanism. Because there is the comfort that you will keep getting oxygen supply rather than not knowing when it will arrive the next time,” he said.
While the final report is being fast-tracked, Dr Guleria said the focus will be on future planning.
“Our focus should be what we should do for the future. That would be, having some sort of mechanism where the distribution is smooth… so that oxygen production is done in the vicinity rather than having to travel long distances to the western part of the country or the central part. And have some reservoir where the oxygen can be stored in case there is a surge,” he said.
Planning at the hospital level, he said, is also a critical component of the oxygen audit. “We have to develop oxygen stewardship and learn how to save oxygen at the hospital level. At the supply chain level, they should know well in advance what is the degree of oxygen that hospitals have, and the consumption. And start working on getting a regular supply of oxygen. And we need to have a dashboard that captures each hospital,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Kejriwal, in a Twitter post, said people of Delhi faced a “severe shortage of medical oxygen” during the second wave.
“If your fight over oxygen is over, then can we get to work? Let’s make such a system together that no one suffers due to lack of oxygen in the third wave. In the second wave, people faced a severe shortage of medical oxygen. Now this should not happen in the third wave. If we fight amongst ourselves, then Corona will win. If we fight together, the country will win,” he said.
Targeting the Chief Minister, BJP leader and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar took to Twitter and said “Jhoot bole kauwa kaate” (“do not lie”).
“Kejriwal, you managed to get excess oxygen by speaking lies. And you ended up not using that and made other states suffer. Now what new lies are you going to serve to the people of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab?” Javadekar said — an apparent reference to AAP attempts to make inroads in UP and Punjab where Assembly polls are scheduled next year.
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