Twelve patients died in a government medical college in Madhya Pradesh’s Shahdol on April 18, allegedly because of oxygen shortage; 48 hours later, 10 patients died at Bhopal’s People’s Hospital with relatives alleging the same. The state government has denied any shortage of oxygen or disruption in supply. Last year, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had promised to build an oxygen plant in six months.
Sources say there’s a big gap between demand and supply as the state does not have its own manufacturing plant and relies on Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh for oxygen supply.
Last September, Maharashtra stopped the supply of oxygen to Madhya Pradesh. NDTV reported how the gas was available on the black market. The next day, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that a 200-tonne oxygen plant would be set up in the Mohasa-Babai Industrial Area in Hoshangabad, adding it would be operational in six months.
His cabinet cleared the proposal in October and said it would provide 40% assistance to Inox, a key supplier, for a period of seven years under the Investment Promotion Scheme to run the plant. In December, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the plant, but until now, only boundary walls have been constructed.
Many districts are reportedly facing an acute shortage of oxygen. Madhya Pradesh, with 59,193 active patients as on April 22, requires 400 tonnes of liquid oxygen daily. Per estimate, the active cases will go up to 1 lakh by the end of this month and the state would require 500 MT daily.
According to the Health Department report on April 20, there are only 4,030 patients on normal beds in hospitals, but on oxygen beds, the count was almost four times – 19,172; of these, 6,639 patients are in critical condition in ICU.
The government has reiterated there won’t be any shortage of oxygen. Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang said: “Last year we signed the MoU, we have allotted the land to the company. The construction is on, we have done our part; they will soon start the production.”
In a related development, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said that action would follow under the stringent National Security Act against those black marketing anti-viral drug Remdesivir. Action would also be taken against those who provide misleading information regarding oxygen supply, he said. Mr Chouhan further added that regular talks are being held with the central Government, including DRDO for oxygen supply.