Three days after the state health secretary wrote to all districts to judiciously use medical oxygen and hinted at possible pilferage, an uproar from the medical community forced the Maharashtra government to issue a clarification on Monday stating “there is no intention of state government to ration/ restrict consumption of oxygen by any patient”.
“Each patient should receive oxygen in the manner and to the level as may be necessary for full and speedy recovery,” the letter on Monday by Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas said.
The state government was forced to issue a clarification after private doctors questioned its allegations of excessive oxygen usage and said a treating doctor has the right to decide the quantity of oxygen required for a patient. The government on Monday asked hospitals to work on minimising oxygen wastage until central guidelines on oxygen are issued. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare conducted a meeting in New Delhi on Monday to formulate protocol on consumption and use of medical oxygen. The guidelines are expected soon.
In a letter dated September 18, Vyas had recommended to limit use of oxygen at 7 litres per minute per Covid-19 patient in normal ward and 12 litres per minute in ICU. The letter had come down heavily on private hospitals stating that there may be a tendency on their part to put patients on oxygen for durations more than necessary and for commercial reasons. It had asked district authorities to audit patients on oxygen support in hospitals and maintain a record of them. However, the state has withdrawn the limit of 7-12 litres of oxygen per patient per minute after private doctors reached out to the government.
Maharashtra produces 1,210 metric ton oxygen daily, and currently requires 600 metric ton for medical oxygen. A shortage of oxygen has cropped up in parts of the state since August end due to limited transportation medium and lack of adequate storage in hospitals. Every day, Maharashtra is adding 20,000-25,000 new cases, of them at least 15 per cent are put on oxygen support, thrice the national average at 5 per cent. Overall, there are over 27,000 Covid patients on oxygen support in the state.
State health officials said the health secretary’s letter was to raise concern over oxygen wastage and unnecessary use of oxygen even for mildly ill patients. The Indian Medical Association criticised the state’s move to limit oxygen supply for patients. “The curb on oxygen use is unprincipled. It is an unwarranted questioning on clinical acumen of doctors,” a statement from IMA said.
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