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Amid O2 shortage, West Bengal to take action against price gouging

The government said retailers would have to sell oxygen cylinders at MRP to Covid-19 patients in home isolation, provided they have a prescription from a registered doctor.

Written by Sweety Kumari | Kolkata |
Updated: April 25, 2021 5:34:56 am
Covid: Amid O2 shortage, West Bengal to take action against price gougingThe state government has also issued guidelines to standardise the certification system for non-institutional and inter-institutional transit deaths of Covid-19 patients. (File)

With West Bengal continuing to register a steep rise in Covid-19 cases, the state health department on Saturday issued guidelines to ensure an adequate supply of medical oxygen for the treatment of Covid patients. It also warned legal action would be taken against people found hoarding, selling and transporting oxygen cylinders without valid permits and doctors’ prescriptions.

The guidelines were issued following a high-level meeting at the state secretariat.

“It has been brought to the notice of the Department of Health & Family Welfare that there have been instances of hoarding of medical oxygen cylinders, selling of medical oxygen cylinders to the general public without any valid prescription of a medical doctor… it is expedient to control the hoarding of the above-mentioned item…” read the health department notice.

The government said retailers would have to sell oxygen cylinders at MRP to Covid-19 patients in home isolation, provided they have a prescription from a registered doctor. It added that anyone found hoarding oxygen cylinders “will be punished under Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, 1945, IPC and Epidemic Act 1897 & Amendments 2020”.

At the secretariat meeting, the government decided to form an integrated Covid management system under which a 24×7 control room will be opened to facilitate coordination among nodal officers trying to contain the pandemic. The state reported a record 14,281 cases in 24 hours, according to Saturday’s health bulletin, taking the patient count to 81,375. The toll rose to 10,884 after 59 people succumbed to
the virus.

To ensure the swift movement of oxygen tankers, the Kolkata Police’s traffic department tweeted, “All concerned, including hospitals and oxygen suppliers, are requested to inform us at 03322505096/03322143644 of any movement of oxygen tankers/cylinders etc in the city of Kolkata so that we can provide exclusive corridor for their swift movement.”

Meanwhile, the state government has also issued guidelines to standardise the certification system for non-institutional and inter-institutional transit deaths of Covid-19 patients.

Now, doctors who are the last to treat the deceased — either in person or online — can issue death certificates. If a patient dies while being shifted from one hospital to another, the last doctor to treat him or her will have to issue the certificate.

The amended rule was announced on Friday to maintain a uniform and standardised system of certification of such deaths. Earlier that day, at least three instances of Covid-19 patients dying in their homes were reported. Their bodies were allegedly left unattended for hours.

Regarding cremation in cases of non-institutional and inter-institutional transit deaths, the health department said, “The relatives of such cases…for cremation/burial of the dead bodies. For Kolkata, one should contact CHMO – KMC – 9830011041, for all other urban areas Executive officer/ health officer, Concerned Municipality should be contacted and for all rural areas, block development officer, block medical officer of health need to be called,” read the advisory.

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