No Shortage Of Medical Oxygen In Kerala: Official
Even if 10,000 COVID-19 patients need oxygen support, we will be able to provide it, a senior official who is overseeing production and supply of medical oxygen in Kerala said.
A major issue with patients suffering from COVID-19 is breathlessness. The symptoms start arising within 7-10 days of illness. Several drug trials are underway, but the current treatment for severe COVID-19 depends majorly on providing the best possible oxygen supportive care.
“In Kerala, we are capable of producing 250 metric tonne (MT) medical oxygen daily at two big plants and 23 filling centres. Out of this around 90 MT is required for non-COVID-19 patients. So, the remaining 150 MT can be used for COVID-19,” Dr Venugopal R, Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives at Petroleum And Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), said.
According to Venugopal, on August 22, there were only some 600 COVID-19 patients with oxygen support admitted to different hospitals.
“To support them with oxygen, we need only 9 MT. With this, we can say that having 150 MT in hand, we can support at least 10,000 COVID-19 patients if they need oxygen,” Venugopal added.
In Kerala, as of Sunday, there are some 56,000 active COVID-19 cases with 677 deaths.
With a surge in caseload, on Sunday, Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja has warned the public that the government might go for another lockdown.
"The state has been trying its level best to avoid a total lockdown. But if the people are not ready to cooperate with the authorities, the state will have to go in for a total lockdown again in the state," she said.
As many as 1,67,939 persons tested positive for the virus so far in the state, of which 1,14,530 patients have recovered from the illness. So, the recovery rate is still stable in the state.
As many as 656 people died in the state due to COVID-19 which is 0.39% of the total cases. Though most COVID-19 positive patients belonged to the age category of 20-40, around 72% of those who died from the virus are above 60 years.
“This reveals that Kerala will have to face a crisis if there are more cases in the coming days as the high density of people and number of elderly people with lifestyle diseases is a challenge to the state,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, Venugopal said that if the cases go beyond 10,000 too, they have a contingency plan.
“Oxygen is produced for industrial purposes in Kerala Mineral and Metals Limited (KMML), Cochin Shipyard, and Cochin Refinery. If the situation worsens and if we need more oxygen, we can source from there,” Venugopal said.
“Life is more important than industry,” Venugopal said adding that under no circumstances will Kerala face shortage of medical oxygen.
When other states started to act only during the first week of April in sourcing and storing oxygen, under Venugopal, Kerala started to source and store oxygen from March 23 itself.
“I had requested all oxygen sourcing and storage centres to ensure oxygen supply continuity to all hospitals in Kerala then itself. And we are confident in facing this challenge,” he added.
Meanwhile, a medical oxygen supplier in northern Kerala said that there is neither a rise in requirement nor a shortage in supply currently in Kerala.
“Why there is no high demand for oxygen because, due to the COVID-19 scare, people are avoiding unnecessary hospital visits and treatments. So, oxygen demand is not that high. But if the caseload goes high like what is happening now, then we may come under stress and activate emergency plans,” Prajith said.
Prajith supplies around 200 oxygen cylinders (7 cubic meter capacity) per day to different hospitals in northern Kerala.
“One cylinder would be enough to support an ordinary patient for two to three days. But for patients in serious conditions, one cylinder would be over in a day,” Prajith added.
Meanwhile, last Saturday, to ensure the availability of medical oxygen in the country at a reasonable price amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the national drug pricing regulator NPPA capped the price of medical oxygen cylinders and liquid medical oxygen for six months.
According to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, the present situation of COVID-19 has resulted in increased demand for medical oxygen up to almost four times from 750 MT per day to around 2800 MT per day.
The issue related to availability, including pricing of oxygen, has been under the continued consideration of Empowered Group 2 and it had recommended that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) consider capping the ex-factory price of liquid medical oxygen to ensure its supply to fillers at reasonable prices.
Empowered Group 2 also requested NPPA to consider a cap for the ex-factory price of oxygen in cylinders to ensure the supply of oxygen cylinders from fillers at reasonable prices.
NPPA decided to cap the ex-factory price of LMO at manufacturers end at Rs 15.22/cubic metre (CUM) exclusive of GST; and to further cap the ex-factory cost of medical oxygen cylinder at filler end at ₹25.71/CUM exclusive of GST in the suppression of the existing ceiling price of ₹17.49/CUM, subject to transportation cost fixation at the state level, for six months.
According to the oxygen cylinder supplier, a 7 CUM cylinder would cost between Rs 9000 and Rs 10,000.
In a tweet, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers D V Sadananda Gowda had said, “Government is committed to ensuring the availability of oxygen during #COVID19.@nppa_india price cap will address the challenge of transporting oxygen to distant and interior districts.”