Delhi hospitals install oxygen plants, but experts say 'not enough'
Delhi had witnessed chaotic scenes this year as hospitals ran out of oxygen on a daily basis and many died due to the shortage. To prevent such a crisis during a potential third wave of COVID-19, hospitals are installing PSA oxygen generation plants on their premises. However, experts say that won't be enough as Liquid Medical Oxygen facilities remain the main source of oxygen.
Official data suggests that at least 47 medical oxygen plants with a combined capacity of 57 metric tonnes (MT) have been commissioned in the capital city. A total of 83 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants will come up there, with a capacity of over 100 MT, according to the data. The installation of the remaining plants will be completed by October 31.
A PSA oxygen plant uses a technology that helps it absorb nitrogen from the surrounding air, thereby producing oxygen gas that can then be supplied to a hospital or industry. Such plants come with varying production capacities.
The Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital in Delhi has five PSA plants, which can collectively generate 5 MT oxygen daily. Similarly, Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital also has five PSA plants, installed in June this year while Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital has four plants. Meanwhile, Batra Hospital set up its first PSA plant on Wednesday, which can generate 500 liters oxygen per minute.
Asked if the currently available amount of medical oxygen would be enough during the third wave, Dr. Suresh Kumar of LNJP Hospital said there is no surety. "Neither us nor any other hospital can say if it's enough to cater to all patients since how long our oxygen will last depends on the severity of the patients admitted," he told ThePrint.
Doctors say that though in-house oxygen plants have their importance, they can only be considered a contingency plan. They underline that the government needs to ensure smooth transportation of LMO from neighboring states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. "Eighty percent of our oxygen demand is met through LMOs, PSA plants are Option B," said Dr. Kumar of LNJP, according to ThePrint.
Delhi had reported an acute shortage of medical oxygen during India's devastating second wave of the coronavirus in April-May. Dozens died due to the shortage at separate hospitals, including the Jaipur Golden Hospital and Batra Hospital. The main reasons cited for the shortage were supply issues from places of production and lack of enough cryogenic tankers for uninterrupted road transportation.
A third wave of COVID-19 is expected to hit India between September and October. However, top experts have predicted that it would not be as ferocious as the previous one, and would peak at around 1,00,000 daily cases.