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Thursday, May 06, 2021

Tamil Nadu govt assures high court on the availability of oxygen, ventilators

The bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy directed Vijay Narayanan, the advocate general for Tamil Nadu, to get clear instructions from the government to ensure that the state his handling the issue properly.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: April 23, 2021 8:52:32 am
A street in Chennai wears a deserted look during night curfew to curb the spread of coronavirus. (PTI)

The Tamil Nadu government Thursday informed the Madras High court that it has enough supply of oxygen and ventilators. The state government’s reply comes after the Madras High Court took suo motu notice of newspaper reports on the shortage of Remdesivir and ventilators in the state and diversion of oxygen from a city plant to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy directed Vijay Narayanan, the advocate general for Tamil Nadu, to get clear instructions from the government to ensure that the state his handling the issue properly.

In the second half of the day, AG Vijay Narayanan informed the court that Tamil Nadu is one of the very few states with no shortage of ventilators at a time of dire need and the manufacturing is far ahead of requirement. He further added that there are about 9,600 ventilators of which 5,887 are earmarked for Covid-19 treatment and in private there about 6000 ventilators and 3,000 of them have been earmarked for the treatment of the deadly viral.

The AG told the judges that about 31,000 doses of Remdesivir vaccine were available in government hospitals. The private hospitals may face shortage. If they ask, the same would be supplied to them at concessional rates, he said.

The court said if the state has sufficient resources, it should also be helping other states as well. The court further added that it will post the matter for further hearing on Monday when the state is expected to produce more details on beds and vaccine availability.

Tamil Nadu government asserted that it has adequate stock of oxygen but would take up with the Centre the issue of diversion of about 45 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to neighbouring states.

As many as 550 MTs of oxygen was being produced in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry per day and there were 1,167 MTs of it available against the demand of 250 MTs. The assignment of oxygen to Andhra and Telangana would not affect the comfortable position of manufacture and supply of the material in Tamil Nadu, Narayanan added.

Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said the state had been providing oxygen to its neighbouring states which are running a deficit of medical oxygen. However, he said the diversion initiated by the Centre should not create any trouble in the state in future and hence, they would take up the issue with the Centre to ensure that the situation is comfortable for them in the future as well.

While rejecting the claim that some deaths at the Vellore hospital took place due to the lack of oxygen supply, Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar reaffirmed that the state has enough oxygen and vaccine supply and there is no need to panic. “The liquid medical oxygen manufacturing capacity is around 400 metric tonnes a day in Tamil Nadu and the daily medical consumption of oxygen is around 240 tonnes per day. We have a strong healthcare base here in Tamil Nadu. The state has a storage capacity of around 1,200 tonnes,” he told reporters Wednesday.

He also added that there won’t be much wastage of vaccines from May 1 as the Centre has allowed everyone above 18 years to get vaccinated. “Unlike states like Maharashtra, Delhi and Gujarat which are reporting high Covid-19 cases and have an acute shortage of oxygen cylinders, Tamil Nadu is well equipped with oxygen supply. There are 32,405 oxygen beds in Tamil Nadu and 6,504 oxygen beds in Chennai. There are 54,342 beds in Tamil Nadu to even deal with severe cases,” he added.

However, patients in some of the districts with high Covid cases raised complaints about lack of beds. For instance, in Chengalpet district, which had been reporting the second most number of cases in Tamil Nadu after Chennai, there was a shortage of beds for patients. Some patients were made to wait inside the ambulance near the hospital for hours with oxygen support. Close to 75 of the oxygen beds in these districts (including private hospitals) are occupied.

Some of the private hospitals with medium facilities are anticipating a scarcity of oxygen. As per the data provided by the government on the availability of beds in private hospitals, the admission request is double the times the available beds. For instance, a private hospital with 34 bed facilities is having 72 patients in queue. The patients are made to wait for long hours for their turn. Beds allocated for Covid-19 and suspected cases, oxygen-supported beds and ICU beds were all occupied.

A senior doctor from the Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association said the state has enough supply of beds and panic was caused by some of the patients, who wanted to get admitted to the hospital despite having mild symptoms.

“We have not reached the ‘deficit’ stage here in Tamil Nadu. Oxygen-supported beds are available in government hospitals. The state is planning to increase the facility as well. The anxiety of some of the patients causes much trouble to some of them in serious need. Those with lower oxygen levels and comorbidities are not getting admission. This forces the private hospitals to push the severe cases to government hospitals at the last moment which creates unnecessary tension and stress for doctors. Maybe the government can bring more awareness by displaying the availability of beds in a public domain and admit people on the basis of severity. Mild cases can be handled at home. People staying in health care centres should stay there. If this could be ensured, there will be less load of patients in hospitals. A possible tie-up between government and private hospitals will also curb the spread of the pandemic,” he said.

Meanwhile, the opposition DMK and AMMK slammed the diversion of oxygen by the Centre. DMK president MK Stalin said the Centre should have checked the situation in Tamil Nadu with the government and charged it with not taking the states seriously. AMMK founder TTV Dhinakaran said the Centre’s decision to divert the oxygen from Tamil Nadu without consulting the state administration is not acceptable.

(With inputs from PTI)

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