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Covid-19 surge in Pune: Steep rise in Oxygen demand cripples operations in hospitals

Covid-19 surge in Pune: Steep rise in Oxygen demand cripples operations in hospitals
Covid-19 surge in Pune: Steep rise in Oxygen demand cripples operations in hospitals 1

At 83,809, Pune has the highest number of active cases in the country and the pandemic has spread into rural parts of Pune district. A majority of the patients from the rural areas are seeking treatment in city hospitals and occupying close to 28% of the beds, data shared by the Pune divisional commissioner revealed.

Pune has till now reported 2.41 lakh positive cases and is adding between 3,500 and 4,500 cases every day. The largest state-run hospital providing Covid-treatment — the Sassoon Hospital — has stopped admitting patients till work on augmenting the oxygen system is done. Many patients had to move out to a newly created hospital after oxygen supply at Sassoon was disrupted.

The hospital had a 13- tonne oxygen supply tank but it could not cope with the huge pressure because of the spike in demand. It developed technical glitches. The Maharashtra government has asked the oxygen suppliers to reserve 80% of their production for hospitals and only 20% for industries, but this may not be enough.

Sudhir Mehta, lead and coordinator, Pune Platform for Covid-19 Response (PPCR), said there were 20 to 50 times jump in requirement of oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients.

Even if only 5% of the 80,000 active cases in Pune require oxygen, there was a huge spike in demand that cannot be met instantly.

“We are talking of 10 litres of oxygen per minute per patient and just 10 patients would need 100 cylinders a day, which is now not easily available,” Mehta said. There are 200 plus hospitals that need oxygen supply and this sudden demand has caused the shortage, Mehta said. Not many hospitals have bulk oxygen storage capacities and most of them use cylinders which have to be refilled and supplied so it is not just an availability issue but also a logistical problem, Mehta said. Efforts are on to start an unused plant in Pune but that too will take some time to start operations, he said.

PPCR is a volunteer group of business, industry and start-ups working on making critical care items available for hospitals and supplementing government’s efforts to contain the pandemic. PPCR has created a real-time dynamic dashboard to create a central monitoring mechanism, a dashboard, making information on bed accessible to the public. It is also working with the government and private hospitals to increase bed capacity for Covid-19 patients. PPCR is carrying out surveys to figure out how much oxygen would be needed by hospitals.

According Mehta, who is also MD of Pinnacle Industries, said oxygen plants were working 24×7 producing oxygen but there is a shortage of cylinders and refilling capacity to deal with. As it is not possible to set up new oxygen plants immediately, which could up to take up to two years to materialize, so the best bet was to reach out to steel industries that are large users of oxygen and divert their stock to hospitals, suggests Mehta. Another suggestion the PPCR has made to the Maharashtra state government is to import oxygen to meet immediate need. Though it will be expensive, oxygen was vital to saving lives as that was the only way to treat Covid-19 patients, he said.

According to CPC Analytics Pune has a critical rate of 5.1% and case fatality rate (CFR) of 2.3%, which is higher that the national CFR of 1.63%. Fatalities due to Covid-19 is an important indicator and Pune’s critical rate is still high while CFR has stagnated and needs to come down, Sahil Deo, founder of CPC, a data analytics firm said.

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