A week after private hospitals in Bengaluru approached the Karnataka government complaining about the exorbitant prices of medical oxygen by private suppliers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they say that the issue is yet to be resolved. Speaking to TNM, Dr Prasanna HM, President-elect Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) said that starting from last month onwards, major oxygen suppliers have almost doubled the price of oxygen cylinders citing hike in logistical costs.
Private medical establishments say this has affected their finances badly as oxygen demand is at an all-time high with close to half of all hospitalised COVID-19 patients requiringhigh-flow oxygen including those in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and ventilators. They claim that if the government does not intervene, it would be very difficult to sustain their functioning, given the government has also capped what they can charge from certain categories of patients.
On October 14, PHANA had written to the Drugs Controller, Government of Karnataka seeking a price cap so that private suppliers don’t ‘exploit the vulnerable situation’ further. Dr Prasanna claimed that these oxygen suppliers have also threatened to stop supply if the hospitals do not agree to the new price and so far, the government is yet to intervene.
“We want the state government to fix the transportation cost at the earliest just as the price of oxygen has been fixed by the union government so that we are not exploited in this hour of crisis,” he told TNM. On average the price which was around Rs 25 per cubic meter has now been made over Rs 40 per cubic meter, the association said.
Responding to the issue, Karnataka Health Minister Dr Sudhakar said that the state government will “resolve the issue soon” and claimed there is no shortage of oxygen as of the moment. “The Union Government has capped the price of liquid medical oxygen at Rs 15.22 per cubic meter and that of oxygen inhalation medicinal gas in cylinder at Rs 25.71 per cubic meter,” he said in a statement to TNM.
He added, “There is no shortage of oxygen as of now. But manufacturers are complaining that transportation costs are high. Government is looking into the issue and we will resolve this soon.”