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Covid surge: Modi takes stock of oxygen shortage

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on May 02, 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi

To ramp up supply, PM reviews using gaseous oxygen for medical purposes, augmenting resources to manage pandemic

With medical oxygen shortage continuing to impede India’s effective management of Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday chaired meetings to review the usage of gaseous oxygen for medical purposes and the progress on converting nitrogen plants to produce oxygen.

These review meetings are in line with Modi’s direction of exploring innovative ways to ramp up supply and availability of oxygen

Many industries such as steel plants, refineries with petrochemical units, industries using rich combustion process, power units etc have plants which produce gaseous oxygen. This oxygen can be tapped for medical use.

Gaseous oxygen

The strategy being used is to identify industrial units that produce gaseous oxygen of requisite purity, short-list those which are closer to cities/dense areas/demand centres and establish temporary Covid-care centres with oxygenated beds near that source, an official release said.

A pilot for five such facilities had been initiated and is making good progress. This is being accomplished through PSUs or private industries operating the plant, with co-ordination by Central and State governments. Around 10,000 oxygenated beds can be made available in a short period of time by constructing temporary hospitals near such plants.

State governments are being encouraged to set up more such facilities with oxygenated beds to deal with the pandemic, the release added.

Modi also reviewed the progress on the setting up of pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plants. He was informed that around 1,500 PSA plants are in the process of being set up through contribution from PM CARES, PSUs and others. He directed officials to ensure speedy completion of these plants.

Converting nitrogen plants

Given the need for medical oxygen, the government had explored the feasibility of conversion existing nitrogen plants to produce oxygen. Modi also reviewed the progress on this.

Fourteen industries have been identified where the conversion is under progress. With the help of industry associations, 37 more nitrogen plants have beern identified.

A nitrogen plant modified for the production of oxygen can be either shifted to a nearby hospital or, in case it is not feasible to shift the plant, it can be used for on-site oxygen production and transported to hospital through specialised vessels/cylinders.

HR augmentation

Both the review meetings were attended by Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Secretary, Home Secretary, Secretary Road Transport & Highways, besides senior officials.

Meanwhile, Modi on Sunday held a virtual meeting to review augmenting human resources for effective Covid-19 management.

The meeting discussed steps to incentivise students and pass outs of medical and nursing courses to join Covid-19 duty, sources said.

Indications are that the government plans to rope in medical and nursing graduates for supporting Covid-19 treatment at a time when the entire health infrastructure in the country is creaking under the surging Covid-19 cases.

Published on May 02, 2021

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