As states grapple with shortage of oxygen amid spiking cases of coronavirus,top executive of India’s largest liquid oxygen producer has said while the country has ample stocks, the problem is of transporting it from factories to hospitals. Even though Maharashtra is the largest producer if oxygen, followed by Gujarat, the exponential rise in the demand has created a disbalance of demand and supply. Madhya Pradesh has no oxygen plant of its own and relies on neighbouring states for supplies. “The two western states which manufacture the maximum liquid medical oxygen in the country are also the ones consuming it the most at present,” said Siddhart Jain of Inox Air Products in an interview with the Times of India.
Jain said that states like Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha have excess oxygen. However, the storage and distribution part of it throws a challenge.
“Oxygen, which is air, is just around you, it need not travel. But this (transporting liquid O2 from East to West through RoRo) has never been done anywhere in the world. Liquid oxygen is not designed to travel thousands of kilometers. Usually, plants are set up where there is a requirement (like in industrial locations),” he said in the interview.
There has been an acute shortage of oxygen in several parts of the country. Hospitals in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow have pasted notices outside their premises and requested people to shift serious patients to other hospitals for treatment as they are running out of oxygen. A private hospital, Mayo Medical Centre, has pasted a notice, which reads, “We are requesting the family members of those patients who are on oxygen support please take their patients to higher centres for further management.”
Meanwhile, Railways is running an Oxygen Express service dedicated to delivery of liquid oxygen for medical use.
A meeting was held between Railway Board officials and state transport commissioners and representatives of the industry on April 17 on issues related to transportation of liquid medical oxygen. “Instructions have been issued to zonal railways to ensure readiness to receive the trailers and load them. Ramps have to be built at Vizag, Angul and Bhilai and the existing ramp at Kalamboli is to be strengthened. Ramps at other locations would also be ready in a couple of days by the time the tankers reach those locations.