Hospitals in bind as oxygen becomes scarce due to Covid

Hospitals in a bind as oxygen becomes scarce due to Covid-19

Representative image. Credit: iStock

With hospitals reporting a threefold surge in oxygen consumption due to Covid-19, major suppliers are struggling to meet the demand. This was evident on Monday night when KIMS hospital had to move 47 Covid patients to Victoria and Bowring hospitals because of a shortage of oxygen supplies. 

Major oxygen suppliers have reached saturation point as far as production goes. And the breakdown of some oxygen plants is worsening the problem. It's been 11 days since an oxygen plant run by Japanese multinational Air Water Inc on the JSW Steel campus in Ballari district broke down. The company says its current oxygen stock will last until Wednesday night. 

The plant caters to 13 major Covid hospitals, including the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, Manipal Hospitals, Fortis (Bannerghatta Road), Jayanagar General Hospital, ESI Hospital, St Philomena's Hospital and Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences. If Air Water fails to supply oxygen, these hospitals have to rely on the other four major vendors: Universal, Praxair, Linde and INOX Air Products. 

Jayanagar General Hospital used to consume 3,000 cubic metres of oxygen and ESI Hospital 9,000 cubic metres. But after the pandemic began, the consumption has risen to 30,000 cubic metres. 

High flow oxygen is crucial in Covid treatment. As per an estimate, 24 litres of oxygen is required per bed per day. Hence, a hospital's oxygen storage capacity and frequency of supply by the distributor are of paramount importance. 

The Andhra Pradesh government has prohibited liquid oxygen from being supplied to other states, worsening the situation. 

Sachin Patil, Head of Air Water India's South India operations, said: "Previously, our hospital clients from the state would require 30 tonnes per day. It's now 60 tonnes. Our liquid manufacturing oxygen plant has been shut for 10 days now. We have been getting liquid oxygen from other states but due to the surge in demand, we are unable to sustain." 

According to Patil, the company caters to 16 hospitals in the state. "Our stocks will last until Wednesday night. We can supply oxygen to Bengaluru hospitals only until Thursday afternoon," he said. 

Ravichandra R, assistant manager from INOX Air Products, said their plant in Ballari supplied 30 tonnes of medical oxygen to 10 hospitals in Bengaluru and four others in the rest of the state. "We have to bring liquid oxygen from other states. Our Ballari plant alone cannot meet the demand. We supply 11,000 cubic metres every day to Bengaluru hospitals," he said.