As the country sees a surge in Covid cases, largely powered by southern states, there has also been an increase in patients on oxygen support – an almost 2% rise in the past one month.
A senior official of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told The Sunday Express that in the first week of July, when India emerged as the country with the third highest number of novel coronavirus cases, overtaking Russia and just behind the US, 7% of the active cases were on oxygen support. In early June, that percentage stood at 5-5.5%.
Oxygen therapy is crucial to clinical management of patients, especially to keep fatality rates under control.
The increase in oxygen demand over the last month is being attributed to the emergence of hotspots in southern India and in regions outside Mumbai in Maharashtra. “In Karnataka, the Bangalore municipal area and Tumkur district have seen a surge. In Telangana, the increase has been driven by Hyderabad municipal areas. In Andhra Pradesh, it is not confined to one area but distributed across the state,” the official said.
In Maharashtra, the official added, more numbers are being reported from outside the Mumbai metropolitan area, especially Solapur, Palghar, Thane and Pune. “To some extent, parts of West Bengal and Gujarat are also contributing to the increase.”
At the same time, the official said the country was well-prepared to meet the rising oxygen demand. “The daily production of oxygen in the country is 6,000 metric tonnes. Currently, Covid dedicated hospitals and Covid care centres are using 1,100-1,200 metric tonnes daily. Therefore, there is sufficient headroom,” the official said.
The government has been adding oxygen beds in Covid facilities. While on June 27, there were 51,321 oxygen-supported beds, as shared at a meeting of the Group of Ministers, by July 9, another GoM said 1.42 lakh oxygen-supported beds had been operationalised.
Experts from the Centre have had multiple deliberations with states on providing non-invasive oxygen to patients. A protocol issued by it recommends that oxygen levels be monitored, with a fall below 92-96% saturation in blood a cause for alarm.
In moderate cases, the protocol recommends that patients be made to lie on their stomachs, to increase the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs, and the use of devices like nasal prongs, masks with breathing and non-rebreathing reservoir bags, depending upon the requirement of oxygen.
In cases of respiratory distress or hypoxemia, where a patient’s condition cannot be alleviated through standard oxygen therapy, high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy or non-invasive ventilation must be considered first. “If conditions do not improve or even get worse within a short time (one-two hours), tracheal intubation and invasive mechanical ventilation should be used,” the protocol recommends.
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