Delhi government exaggerated oxygen requirement by 4 times: SC panel
CM Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi exaggerated the national capital's oxygen needs when the second COVID-19 wave was at its peak during April 25-May 10, found an audit team constituted by the Supreme Court. It said Delhi inflated its oxygen requirement by four times—suggesting excess supply to it could have caused a crisis of oxygen supply to 12 other states with high caseloads.
The panel's report said, "The actual oxygen consumption claimed by the Delhi (1,140MT)...was about four times higher than the calculated consumption as per the formula based on bed capacity (289MT)." The Petroleum and Oxygen Safety Organization (PESO) informed the panel that Delhi had surplus oxygen and excess supply affected liquid medical oxygen (LMO) supply to other states, which could have triggered a national crisis.
On May 7—after Delhi raised alarm over oxygen shortage—Justice DY Chandrachud-led SC bench directed the Centre to ensure supply of 700MT even though Solicitor General Tushar Mehta presented that experts' calculation pegged Delhi's requirement at 415MT. The SC had also asked AIIMS-Delhi chief Dr. Randeep Guleria-led audit team to examine Mumbai's optimum oxygen utilization model and how it managed during the peak caseload season.
To note, Mumbai reportedly managed with a supply of 275MT of oxygen even during its peak caseload season, when the number of active cases crossed 92,000. On the other hand, Delhi demanded 900MT of oxygen when the peak caseload was 95,000 patients on May 3.
In its interim report to the SC, the team said it had distributed a document to 260 hospitals in Delhi to calculate accurate oxygen requirement based on actual consumption, requirement as per the Delhi Government's formula, and requirement based on the Centre's formula. It said actual oxygen consumption in 183 hospitals that responded was 209MT (hospital-provided data), while Delhi Government claimed it was 1,140MT.
Apart from Dr. Guleria, the SC oxygen audit team comprises the Delhi Government's Principal (Home) Secretary Bhupinder S Bhalla, Max Hospital's Dr. Sandeep Budhiraja, Joint Secretary of Union Jal Shakti Ministry Subodh Yadav, and PESO's Controller of Explosives Sanjay K Singh.
Further, the audit panel's interim report stated, "The recommended LMO consumption as per Union government formula for total bed strength provided by the Delhi government on May 3 (highest till date: 16,272 non-ICU beds and 5,866 ICU beds) would have been 415MT." "If the Delhi government's formula was applied for calculation, it would have been 568MT of LMO," it added.
In its report, the panel had also clarified that while the Delhi Government had claimed that its oxygen requirement formula was based on the Indian Council of Medical Research's (ICMR) guidelines, no such guidelines have been presented to it for scrutiny.
The panel also noted four Delhi-based hospitals—Singhal Hospital, Aruna Asaf Ali Government Hospital, ESIC Model Hospital, and Liferays Hospital—had very few beds but claimed extremely high oxygen consumption. "The claims appeared to be clearly erroneous, leading to extremely skewed information and...higher LMO requirements...Actual consumptions were estimated...after replacing the claimed use figures for the four hospitals with expected use figures using the calculation formula."
The team said the Centre's formula—devised by experts and used for allocating LMO to various states—assumed only 50% of non-ICU beds require oxygen. But Delhi's formula assumes all non-ICU beds need oxygen. It noted, some patients don't require LMO during recovery but occupy oxygenated non-ICU beds if others aren't vacant, adding, "Assuming all patients admitted on 'oxygenated non-ICU beds' need LMO...will be an overestimation."