The Maharashtra Government has come up with an ambitious Rs 745 crore plan to import of 25,000MTs of oxygen, instal 132 oxygen plants based on pressure-swing absorption (PSA) technology, oxygen concentrators and tankers and the procurement of 10 lakh Remdesivir injections to treat its Covid-afflicted. For this plan, the government will tap into its contingency fund.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had announced on April 13 that the government had earmarked Rs 3,300 crore to increase health infrastructure, including the procurement of medicines, medical equipment and related material.
The government’s move comes at a time based on its projection that the number of active cases will cross 10.32 lakhs by May 2, from the current 6,98,354 cases. Thackeray and Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope have said that if cases continue to increase at the present pace, medical infrastructure in the state will be strained to the utmost and there will be a shortage of oxygen, medicines and injections.
A senior health department official told The Free Press Journal, “The government swung into action as the Union health ministry has estimated there will be 99,665 cases on April 30, with a shortfall of 7,041 isolation beds with oxygen, 1,489 ICU beds and 1,112 ventilators.”
As reported earlier by The Free Press Journal, Singapore, Bangladesh and Egypt have already evinced interest to supply Remdesivir to the state.
As far as the installation of 132 pressure-swing absorption (PSA) oxygen plants are concerned, the government has estimated an expense of Rs 200.80 crore, of the Rs 745 crore it has earmarked. The PSA plants will produce 600 to 3,500 litres of oxygen per minute. These plants will be set up at 24 district hospitals, eight general hospitals, 91 sub-district hospitals and 10 municipal hospitals affiliated to the state public health department.
In addition, 40,701 oxygen concentrators will be procured. An oxygen concentrator can fill up a jumbo cylinder of oxygen in 24 hours. The project will cost Rs 272.12 crore and 21 ISO tankers worth about Rs 40 lakh will be procured for Thane, Nashik, Pune, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Latur and Nagpur.
The officer said this was in addition to the Centre’s decision to allocate 4,35,000 Remdesivir vials from April 21-30, which is about 40,000 vials a day against the state's need of 50,000 vials. The Centre has allocated 1,784MTs of oxygen but the state may need 2,000MTs, with the surge in Covid cases. The Centre has already exempted remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) of customs duty and has also waived customs duty and the health cess on the import of Covid-19 vaccines and oxygen. The waiver will include the import of equipment related to supplying patients - whether due to Covid-19 or otherwise - with oxygen, such as generators, storage tanks, filling systems and concentrators.