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Friday, May 07, 2021

Delhi: Patients caught between oxygen suppliers, 2 govts

On Saturday, the court asked the counsel representing all suppliers of liquid medical oxygen to Delhi to remain present during all hearings, with both the Delhi government and hospitals alleging erratic and inadequate supply.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: May 2, 2021 8:04:54 am
Batra hospital incident, Delhi batra hospital, Delhi covid deaths, Delhi covid news, Delhi oxygen crisis, Delhi news, Indian express newsA woman mourns the death of a relative, who died due to shortage of oxygen at the ICU in Batra Hospital, New Delhi. (Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav)

Uncertain allocation to oxygen suppliers, the Delhi government frequently changing its allocation orders, and the Centre not supplying as much oxygen as promised are among key reasons cited before the Delhi High Court for the crisis facing the national capital.

On Saturday, the court asked the counsel representing all suppliers of liquid medical oxygen to Delhi to remain present during all hearings, with both the Delhi government and hospitals alleging erratic and inadequate supply. The Delhi government told the court that hospitals are suffering because of suppliers and sought action against them.

Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said the state received only 312.53 MTs on Friday of the 490 MTs allocated supply.

“There is absolutely no reason why suppliers can be allowed to do this to Delhi now. Somebody needs to really pull them up because they seem to be diverting to some other state under some pressure. We can’t dip by 100 MTs. We need to increase by 200 MTs in Delhi. What is going on behind the scenes? Our tankers are not given priority. We are made to wait,” Mehra told the court, adding that officers of government would have a “nervous breakdown”.

INOX, one of the major suppliers of oxygen, told the court on Saturday that when allocation cannot be certain, its supply cannot take place at a certain time. It also told the court that the Delhi government has been regularly changing its allocation orders. INOX has allocated 85 MT to Delhi and in addition has to pick up 80 MT from Air Liquide for the state.

“It is very demoralising,” advocate Aseem Chaturvedi, representing INOX, said in response to Delhi’s allegation. “I am expected to deliver maximum, much more than what I can chew. I have taken that but everything cannot be left on me. The issue is not that I am not delivering. The issue is hospitals need much more than what has been allocated. Batra’s SOS is not because I am not delivering or Goyal is not delivering, they need much more. I will not be able to cope with this pressure. Half of my staff is down with Covid. I only have truck drivers who are ferrying day in and day out. There are so many factors. I would need support. Yesterday my truck got stopped in Haryana. If there was someone, I could have raised it to them rather than firefighting it myself with the authorities there. I don’t have endless supply. I don’t have endless people.”

Seth Air Products, a refiller which supplies 37 MTs to Delhi, told the court no supply has been received by it on Saturday from Linde’s Faridabad plant. The court directed the Centre to forthwith take up the matter to ensure allocations made by it from Linde and other suppliers are honoured without fail.

Seth Air on Friday also raised the issue of increase in price of liquid oxygen by Linde from Rs 18.22 per cubic metre to Rs 25.22 per cubic metre. Linde later told the court that though it would raise the bill at Rs 25.22 per cubic metre, for the time being it would accept payment of Rs 18.22 per cubic metre till the issue is resolved. Seth Air also told the court that dues are being held both by the state government and hospitals.

Chaturvedi also told the court that it had an agreement with Delhi government on April 29 that 31 MTs supply of Rajiv Gandhi and GTB hospitals will be taken care of by it. “Today again I have been told that these hospitals have to come back to INOX,” he told the court, adding that the supplier has to now pick additional 30 from Air Liquide Panipat for the two hospitals.

INOX also told the court that governments of other states have to be told that these trucks belong to Delhi. “I have taken a conscious call that I will supply whatever best I can but the allocation cannot be erratic,” it told the court. “The allocation cannot change everyday.”

INOX also said it is caught in crossfire between the governments: “It is absolutely discouraging.” Goyal Gas also took objection to the Delhi government statement.

With regard to the two hospitals, the Delhi government told the court that they reported incompatibility issues between their new supplier’s tanker and their LMO tank due to which they had to be reallocated to INOX.

The court on Saturday asked amicus curiae, Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao, to speak to the suppliers and attempt to solve the issues. With regard to allocation, it said “unfortunately” nobody has been able to fix the problem of delivery of oxygen to Delhi.

Tankers in Rajasthan

The court also directed the Centre to take necessary steps to fulfill its assurance of getting INOX’s four tankers, which have been seized by Rajasthan government, released so that they can proceed to their destination for the purpose of filling and supplying liquid medical oxygen.

The tankers were supposed to be put in use for Delhi by INOX. On April 26, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had assured the court that strict action will be taken and it “shall be ensured that the tankers are freed”.

The court on Saturday said the issue is serious. “This is the central government’s problem. Those four tankers should have come. What’s the sanctity of statements…,” said the division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli.

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