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Create oxygen buffer ahead of third wave: SC to Centre

Legal Correspondent New Delhi | Updated on May 06, 2021

Asks govt to devise a scientific formula for the supply of life-saving gas to States

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to start preparing for oxygen allocation and supply to States ahead of the Covid third wave. The court drew the government’s attention especially to reports that children may be affected in the next wave.

A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said the government needed to finalise a formula for allocation, supply and distribution of oxygen in a “scientific manner” and that the present “rough-and-ready” formula would hardly work. The court said the current formula of allocating oxygen to Delhi, for example, on the basis of the number of ICU/non-ICU beds grossly underestimates the need for oxygen in the National Capital.

The court said the formula for allocation and distribution of oxygen among States should be based, among other things, on an “oxygen audit”, that is, to determine the actual need of oxygen in a State.

“We need to reassess the basis for oxygen allocation. We are in Stage 2 of pandemic. Stage 3 might have very different parameters… But if we prepare today, we will be able to handle Stage 3. It is about proper allocation of oxygen and working out the modalities, including proper distribution. A bufferstock has also to be created,” Justice Chandrachud pointed out.

The court also underlined the importance of vaccination. “Children are going to be affected. They will be taken into hospitals. They will be accompanied by parents. Vaccination needs to be done,” the Bench pointed out.

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, while informing the court that 730.7 tonnes of oxygen had been delivered to Delhi on Wednesday as directed by the Bench, agreed that a “minimum fault prone formula” for oxygen supply, allocation and distribution is the need of the hour. The government agreed to revisit the formula.

Rope in young doctors

At one point, the court suggested incentivising young doctors, who have completed their courses, and young trained nurses to augment the fatigued healthcare professionals. More than a few thousand rupees, the Bench suggested giving them grace marks as a reward for their service in combating the pandemic.

Rural situation

Justice Shah asked about the care given in rural areas.

Justice Chandrachud said the health infrastructure in rural areas is rudimentary. However, in Maharashtra, a task force of doctors was formed to advise rural hospitals on pandemic care.

Stay sought

In a related development, Solicitor General Mehta mentioned before the Bench a petition filed by the Centre challenging a Karnataka High Court order to increase the liquid medical oxygen allocation to the State to 1200 tonnes. Justice Chandrachud said the Bench cannot look into the issue as it did not have the records of the case. The Bench would consider the plea if the CJI allocated the case to it.

PTI reports

The oxygen shortage/supply issue came up before other courts across the country.

The Madras High Court suo motu told the State and the Central governments to ensure equitable distribution of medical oxygen, as also vaccines and other life-saving materials.

The position should not be altered to the detriment of a State, particularly Tamil Nadu, since it has production capacity of about 400 tonnes of oxygen per day, which with some additional supply may suffice for its needs. The Union government and the Empowered Committee should take immediate steps... by tomorrow, so that the emergency that the officials speak of — reserve supply running out by Saturday — does not happen, the Bench of Justices Sanjeeb Banerjee and Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said.

All hospitals must have O2 plants: Bombay HC

A Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni of the Bombay High Court, hearing a bunch of petitions, said it was ‘imperative’ for all private hospitals in Maharashtra to have their own oxygen plants to deal with the third wave likely. “If a hospital in Sangli can, why can’t private hospitals in Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad set up their own oxygen plants? it said.

Published on May 06, 2021

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