Gujarat sets up oxygen control room; 2 nodal officers appointed to monitor supply, allocation & distribution

The state has been seeing demand for oxygen outstripping supply since this week, even as more hospitals in Rajkot district ran out of oxygen and sent out SOSs.

THE GUJARAT government on Friday appointed nodal officers to monitor the supply, allocation and distribution of oxygen stock and to supervise its inflow and outflow.

The state has been seeing demand for oxygen outstripping supply since this week, even as more hospitals in Rajkot district ran out of oxygen and sent out SOSs. Health commissioner Jai Prakash Shivhare said a state-level oxygen control room has been set up, which is apart from the district-level or municipal corporation-level oxygen control rooms that the health commissioner had instructed to be established.

According to an order issued by the General Administration Department (GAD) of the state government on Friday, Dhananjay Dwivedi, secretary to government, handling Narmada, water resources, water supply and Kalpsar department and Sanjeev Kumar, managing director of Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation were appointed as nodal officers for “monitoring and supervising the supply, allocation and distribution of oxygen stock within the state of Gujarat”.

According to an offiical associated with oxygen co-ordination, the state’s demand had touched 1300 MT per day, by Friday. Gujarat produces 1100 MT of oxygen daily, all of which is diverted for medical use.

Meanwhile Officer on Special Duty (OSD) for Covid-19 in Vadodara Vinod Rao said on Friday that he has sought an “urgent meeting” with Cabinet Minister and MLA Yogesh Patel on Saturday to review the situation of oxygen supply after two oxygen tankers meant for Vadodara were allegedly “diverted to other cities”.

Rajkot district is facing a severe oxygen crisis, with at least three private hospitals in Gondal sending out an SOS to authorities, notifying that their oxygen supply will only last for “a few hours”.

Another private hospital in Rajkot city also had to seek help from the media to highlight their plight of oxygen “running out quickly”. Meanwhile, at another private hospital in Rajkot city, kin of two patients who died alleged that the deaths were caused by “oxygen shortage”. The hospital denied the allegations. District collector Remya Mohan has ordered a a probe into the matter.

Vadodara, which is consuming 160 MT of oxygen daily, has installed oxygen tanks at several facilities set up to tackle the rising hospitalisation of Covid patients – the city initially had two 20 metric tonne tanks of liquid oxygen at SSG hospital and one 13 metric tonne tank at GMERS Gotri, installed last year.

Now, additional tanks have been installed at Parul Medical College, Dhiraj Medical College as well as the extended Covid facilities at Pioneer institute, Samras hostel of MS University, and BAPS Swaminarayan premises. Vadodara has also installed an oxygen refilling station at Navlakhi compound in the city to reduce the turnaround time for oxygen tankers, mainly to private hospitals dependent on refills.

Rao said, “We held a meeting with the District Collector, Superintendent of Police, District Development Officer and Adviser (on Covid) Dr Sheetal Mistry. I have requested Cabinet Minister Yogesh Patel to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the issue of unobstructed supply of oxygen to Vadodara from the state government. This meeting will be held at 11 am on Saturday at Circuit House with the officers concerned and elected representatives of Vadodara.”

Adding that the “real challenge now is guaranteed and timely supply of oxygen,” for which the district is “dependent entirely on the state government for sufficient allocation and timely transportation, as decided by the state control room,” Rao claimed that over Thursday and Friday, oxygen tankers meant for Vadodara were diverted to other cities and districts, which amounted to around40 metric tonnes of oxygen.

Rao told The Indian Express, “One of the tankers from Air Liquid in Jhagadia and one from Birla Copper from Dahej, which was nearly 40 MT for Vadodara were diverted in the past two days to other places. The state control room is now deciding the allocations to cities. Additionally, Inox Air, which is a major supplier of Oxygen to Vadodara, has been asked to supply 40 MT daily to Madhya Pradesh, This will put Vadodara’s SSG and Gotri hospitals in a spot. We are consuming 160 MT a day as of now.”

Cabinet Minister and BJP MLA from Vadodara Yogesh Patel said, “We have called a meeting [on Saturday] to review the situation and ascertain the [oxygen] demand and also the issues cropping up. We will take a call on the situation and present our side to the state government after the meet.”

In a health department order dated April 20, outlining the protocol for distribution of liquid medical oxygen across the state, it was stipulated that a deputy mamlatdar and a police sub-inspector shall be appointed for a tanker containing liquid medical oxygen from the supplier’s spot to destination, so that “question of diverted supply does not arise.”

Gujarat Director-General of Police Ashish Bhatia said in a statement on Friday, “All senior police officers in each district have been asked to ensure that the supply of available oxygen in the state should only be for medical use. For this, checking, patrolling and vigilance of police will be conducted at places for production, distribution and storage of oxygen. Wherever needed, police will be sent to keep a watch and avoid instances of black marketing or illegal use of oxygen. If necessary, police security will be given at places where major production of oxygen is being done and during its transportation to supply spot. The state intelligence bureau will keep a watch.”

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