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Karnataka has among the lowest per patient oxygen allocation in the country even though the state has the highest number of active cases.

Karnataka to see liquid oxygen shortage till May 26 to depend on buffer stocksRepresntational Image/PTI
Coronavirus COVID-19 Monday, May 24, 2021 - 14:12

The Karnataka government on May 24 said all its districts including Bengaluru have been asked to ration their liquid medical oxygen (LMO) usage in wake of an expected shortfall of 220 MT over next 36 to 48 hours. However, State Nodal officer for Oxygen, Munish Moudgil (IAS) claimed there is no need for the public to panic as the state is mobilising all backup resources. He suggested efforts are underway to acquire LMO from other sources to manage the situation.  

“We have a shortfall due to tripping of two plants (Praxair And Air Water) in Ballari. But we have done our best to minimise the impact and everyone is in complete coordination for handling the situation,” the senior IAS officer told reporters on Monday morning.

“We have adequate backup to meet the situation and more LMO is arriving as we speak,” Moudgil added.

This shortfall of 220 MT is expected even as the state is demanding more LMO from the Union government citing a high number of active cases. Currently, many states which have a lower number of active cases have more allocation by the government, which is the sole authority of LMO usage in the country. Karnataka has not received much relief even though the High Court has slammed the Union government over the issue. The Deccan Herald on Sunday reported the state was among the lowest per patient oxygen allocation in the country even though Karnataka has the highest number of active cases. A portion of LMO allocated for Karnataka from Andhra Pradesh/Odisha is left unutilised due to logistical challenges. 

Read: ‘Do you want people to die?’: Karnataka HC asks Union govt to give more oxygen to state (May 4)

“All DCs, there is a crisis in oxygen availability as 220 tons production has reduced in Bellary (Ballari) due to production problems. It is likely to stabilise by Wednesday morning. Therefore for the next 2 days, there is likely to be a reduction of 20% supply per day to all districts. Manage your oxygen usage carefully. Inform all hospitals and refillers,” Moudgil wrote to all Deputy Commissioners and the BBMP Commissioner on Sunday evening.

In the same communique, he asked DCs to expect and prepare for a 20% reduction in supplies to all refillers on Monday and Tuesday. He urged the same should be communicated to all hospitals so that they can take necessary action. “Plan your oxygen stocks and buffer stock usage now and use buffer stock if the situation requires,” he wrote.

However, details on the quantum of backup at districts and hospitals were not made public. The High Court has also asked the state to furnish such data on May 25. 

Moudgil suggested that there is a centralised system of monitoring LMO usage to avert any crisis. Following the large-scale tragedy of 24 deaths in Chamarajanagar due to oxygen shortage, the state had implemented some LMO supply and usage audit protocols. A state-level oxygen war room is also in place.

Also read: Why smaller hospitals in Karnataka are the most hit by oxygen shortage

Karnataka's new rule on oxygen supply is affecting at-home COVID-19 patients

Currently according to government data, Karnataka uses approx 850 MT of oxygen, and approximately 780 MT is sourced from seven units located in the state. It is to be noted there is more LMO produced from the same units but they are diverted to use for other states. The rest of the 70 MT is sourced from other avenues, such as oxygen express trains by the Railways from other states. Till May 23, nine such trains have supplied 1062 MT to the state in wake of the crisis. Moudgil further said, "The union government has enhanced allotment of Karnataka to 1200 MT. It is likely to become effective in a day or two (after 25th May). However a good part of it allotted from Maharashtra. Lifting that isn't going to be easy."

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