Indian corona wave 2021: A nationwide oxygen emergency

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Rajvi, a fresh graduate from Medical College Baroda and SSG Hospital, India. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

On the 22nd of April, India recorded the world’s biggest spike in COVID-19 with new 314000 cases and more than 2,104 deaths in a day.1 The rapid spread of infections during the second wave of the pandemic has overwhelmed the entire health system in many parts of India. The wailing of ambulance sirens that pierce the silence of our cities is unmissable.2

The condition has gotten worse than the past year because politicians couldn’t postpone their rallies, people couldn’t stay at home but relished the festivals. And now state governments have been forced to impose restrictions so that the health crisis does not get worse. Does that make any sense?

In every wave, we learned new lessons but in this wave, we overlooked how important oxygen supply is in these crucial times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several states have reported shortages of medical oxygen for a growing pool of patients in need of oxygen support. In many states consumption of medical oxygen has surpassed the total capacity of respective states’ production capacity. In the national capital, the crisis became so dire that a hospital chain was forced to go to court to get more oxygen supply because people were dying due to the lack of oxygen supply.Industry experts said India can produce more than 7,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen in a day. So where is the problem, when more than enough oxygen is produced even in this emergency? The problem is demand is high, but there are not enough cylinders and tankers to store and transport oxygen.4

India does not have enough cryogenic tankers to ensure 24×7 road transport of medical oxygen. It takes 4-5 days to reach the target hospital. The smaller a hospital or the more remote its location, the longer the time taken for the oxygen to reach there. So what is the solution? Usually, 20 out of every 100 patients turn symptomatic and three of them critical. The pool that may require oxygen varies from 10-15 per 100 patients. Among solutions that are being worked out or proposed: The Empowered Group plans to identify 100 hospitals in far-flung areas to install pressure swing absorption (PSA) plants, which can manufacture their oxygen and make the hospitals self-reliant.4 on 19th April Indian Oxygen Express Train with a green corridor was established for fast movement of Oxygen through the states.5

In India now every family member of a covid positive relative knows how hard it was to arrange oxygen cylinders for them. Now people understand that no religious festival or politicians can save their lives but social distancing, mask-wearing, and frequent hand washing does.

Even in these hard times, people came forward to help in every possible way. Like opening doors to the needy, many temples and mosques 6, even army bases7 are being converted to COVID-19 care centers where volunteers are ensuring proper arrangements.

These difficult times shall pass but lessons from the past should be learned and implemented effectively. Because by then huge catastrophe may be waiting for us to make mistakes like this oxygen crisis that made India miserable.








About the author

Rajvi is a fresh graduate from Medical College Baroda and SSG Hospital, India. She had volunteered to supervise the national immunization day, January 2021 organized by WHO in rural areas of Vadodara, India for polio vaccination. She is deeply interested in how modifications in lifestyle, appropriate exercise, and diet bring positive change in anyone’s lives which in turn decrease the chance of being physically as well as psychologically ill. She wants to get affiliated with research related to holistic medicine and wishes to bring the concept of wellness to the masses. With the help of NGOs, she wishes to spread knowledge about indigenous diseases and their treatment which the general population lacks due to high illiteracy rates in certain areas.

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  1. Purva Shah says:

    It was a great read. Informative and captivating.

  2. Thank you so much Purva:)

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