Amidst the spike in COVID-19 cases, the demand for oxygen has also increased across the state. To address the issue of the shortage of oxygen, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to increase the daily production of the essential drug to over 1,100 metric tonnes from the 900 metric tonnes being produced currently. Moreover, they have also planned to procure portable oxygen cylinders from neighbouring states.
Currently, there are 2.5 lakh active COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra, of which 14,437 of them require oxygen support, while 9,857 are serious and are undergoing treatment in intensive care units (ICU).
“Considering the demand for oxygen cylinders, we have decided to increase its production to 1,000 metric tonnes per day. All six suppliers are directed to increase their production, so that there is no shortage across the state,” said an FDA officer.
On a daily basis, the FDA is receiving more than 25 calls from hospitals in the state, seeking oxygen. Meanwhile, the collectors of the respective districts inform them about the need for oxygen. “Most of the requirements come from rural areas, especially from western Maharashtra, where the cases are increasing gradually. However, there is a crisis of oxygen in the state," he added.
Last month, the health officers alleged that hospitals are often found using unregulated amounts of oxygen on patients. To control the daily expenditures, last month the state government issued a notification, asking hospitals to restrict oxygen use to 12 litres per minute in the ICUs and 7 litres per minute in a normal ward. This notification received severe backlashes from doctors.
Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president, Indian Medical Association (IMA), Maharashtra, said the government should keep faith in doctors, as they are working ethically in patients' interest. “We shouldn’t be questioned and there should be no restrictions on the usage of oxygen. A doctor's judgement should be final,” he said.
Following this, on September 21, the state government withdrew the circular. Now, the Maharashtra government has issued new guidelines for medical oxygen usage based on the recommendations of the central government-appointed expert committee. Private and public hospitals have been advised to restrict oxygen supply to 40 litres per minute in ICUs and 15 litres per minute in the normal wards per patient.