Why in News?
The author talks about how ramping up medical oxygen production, distribution can save lives.
Syllabus– GS2: Issues related to Health Sector.
Italy’s Experience for India: –
- In 2020, at its peak in Italy COVID had claimed around 1.2 lakh lives because of Covid-19 illness & post-complications.
- Whereas in India in 2021, the second wave has been claiming a very high number of lives similar to the Italy case but the fundamental difference is, in India, the reported deaths are due to a lack of basic healthcare facilities mainly medicinal oxygen.
- In Italy, at its peak in 2020, the Covid-19 virus had claimed around 1.21 lakh lives.
- In India, not only is this figure very high during the second wave but there is also a fundamental difference between their deaths and ours. In Italy, people died due to the Covid-19 illness and its complications.
- In the second wave in India, most of the deaths have come about due to a lack of basic healthcare facilities — medicinal oxygen being the most glaring.
- The situation is so bad that the highest court of the country has been deliberating on the matter for the past 10 days but, unfortunately, nothing seems to be happening.
- Frantic messages by hospitals alerting authorities of the lack of oxygen supply have become commonplace.
- Large cities like Delhi, Surat and Lucknow are gasping for air.
- There are reports of Covid patients dying in hospital wards, at home and even on the streets due to a lack of oxygen supply.
What’s a “Oxygen Famine”?
- In India, medicinal oxygen is produced by both government-owned and private manufacturers.
- Experts believe that India can produce about 7,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen per day:
- We have enough capacity to produce medicinal oxygen but we still see hospitals and individuals struggling due to lack of oxygen.
- This is the classical trait of a famine as described by Amartya Sen — enough production but no availability.
- The key, therefore, lies in increasing the production of oxygen to maximum capacity. But manufacturing is not the same as supplying to regions hungry for oxygen.
- Medical oxygen is prepared in a liquid form with around 99.5 per cent purity.
- This is then stored in jumbo tankers and transported to distributors in cryogenic tankers at a specified temperature.
- Once this reaches the distributor, a process of regasification is done to convert it into gaseous oxygen, which is then filled into cylinders.
- This process is long, requiring three to six days to reach the user because India does not have enough cryogenic tankers to ensure a quicker supply of oxygen.