The silver lining

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The silver lining

Sunday, 02 May 2021 | Shalini Saksena

With hospitals still scrambling to get the much-needed oxygen to those who desperately need it, there are some who have oxygen generators of their own to meet the demand, says SHALINI SAKSENA

India is choking for lack of oxygen. Given that the atmosphere has 21 per cent oxygen, the one thing that we never envisioned was that people would die due to lack of oxygen. But this is precisely what is happening. The second wave of the COVID-19 has wreaked havoc. There are no beds and where there are, there is no oxygen to give to people whose SpO2 per cent is below 94 per cent. The end result is that people are dying right outside the hospitals gasping for breath.

One can continue with the blame game, in the meantime, it is the common man who had to pay a huge price where the healthcare stakeholders misread the situation and didn’t prepare itself for the deadly second wave. But there are a few hospitals in the country who have their own oxygen generators.

Adel, GM head marketing, Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre (MMHRC), Madurai, Tamil Nadu, tells you that their medical oxygen requirement has gone up by double due to the high oxygen consumption by COVID-19 patients. “Compared to the first wave, the patients that we receive now are mostly sick and so they need oxygen support to an extent of 80 litres per hour,” he says.

He tells you that for most hospitals, there are two ways to procure it. First, they install a liquid medical oxygen plant. There are a handful of vendors who will come and install the plant. Second, to buy oxygen cylinders in bulk like the one sees that retails patients use. Given the hospital’s consumption, they opt for either one of them or both, depending on their demand.

“At MMHRC, we have a 10 kl oxygen plant and recently we installed another 3kl. On a routine basis, we use the 10kl plant for hospital needs. But with the increasing need for oxygen due to the second wave, we installed the 3kl plant. Apart from this, we have installed an oxygen generator that generates up to 200 litres per day. For the generator, we don’t need to depend on the oxygen supplier. The plant generators oxygen on its own. But for the liquid medical oxygen plant, we have to depend on the vendor to come and fill the tanks. Unfortunately, the consumption of oxygen has gone up triple-fold. A COVID-19 patient may require up to 50-80 litres of oxygen per hour. In a normal working day of the hospital, the requirement would not be more than three to 10 kl per hour for any critical care patient. But due to COVID-10 our requirement has doubled,” Adel explains.

Besides the 13kl liquid medical oxygen plant and the oxygen generator, the MMHRC is in the process of setting up another plant. “There is a possibility that what these plants are generating may not be enough or in case the oxygen generator fails, the hospital will be in trouble. So I have ordered for another oxygen plant. Given the present situation it will take 10-12 weeks to get the plant going. Even the price of installation has gone up; it now costs `5 crore. This plant will generate 200 oxygen cylinders per day,” Adel tells you.

As far as the liquid medical oxygen plant is concerned, the oxygen goes directly, through the pipelines to the patient’s bed where the oxygen apparatus is. For the cylinders, once they are filled, they are taken to the patients who need it. Adel tells you that even for a hospital with 1,000, at best they would reserve 25-30 per cent beds for critical patients like the ICU.

“The rest would be general wards and other rooms. This is because not everyone needs that kind of care. But things are different now. With the new plant that will be installed soon, we will be able to meet the demand,” Adel says.

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