Covid-19 patients suffering from breathlessness require high-flow nasal oxygen as a lifesaving measure, pushing up the demand for medical oxygen.
Consequently, medical oxygen’s price has shot up, and it varies depending upon the type of contract. Under old contract between manufacturing companies and hospitals, it costs Rs 13-18 per cubic metre; in new contracts, the cost is Rs 24-25 per cubic metre. For spot contract during emergencies, it costs Rs 40 per cubic metre.
A fortnight ago, the state formed a committee of senior officers to monitor the production and supply of oxygen to hospitals from the manufacturing companies and to ensure undisrupted supply.
Seven companies manufacture and supply liquid oxygen to hospitals in the state. Four of them are in Ballari. Big players are Inox Air Products, Bhuruka Gases and Universal Air Products.
Gaurav Gupta, principal secretary, department of commerce and industry, and head of the state-level committee looking after the oxygen production, demand and supply, said medical oxygen manufacturers have been asked to augment their production given the increase in demand for medical oxygen at Covid hospitals and ensure uninterrupted supply.
“I don’t see a shortage; we are able to just meet the demand. Now, Karnataka needs 400-500 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen a day, as against 100-200 tonnes in pre-Covid days. We are in touch with the seven oxygen production agencies on a daily basis,” Gupta told TOI.
He said the government had issued directions to curtail the industrial usage of liquid oxygen and divert the supply to medical purposes. After a private hospital in Bengaluru reported a sudden oxygen shortage, most hospitals have tied up with at least two vendors to ensure uninterrupted supply. This has added to the cost of hospital management.
Given the price hike in liquid oxygen, the Private Hospitals’ and Nursing Home Association (Phana) said the Rs 7,000 package price fixed by the Karnataka government for each oxygenated bed was very low and demanded a revision of the Covid treatment package for government-referred patients.
“The calculations for the agreement were based on the liquid oxygen price then. Now, it’s expensive. We are writing to the health and family welfare department regarding this,” said Dr HM Prasanna, Phana president-elect.
According to Phana members, the majority of hospitalised Covid-19 patients require high-flow nasal oxygen, pushing up the demand.
Doctors have observed a trend of patients in home isolation developing breathlessness and rushing to hospitals with very low oxygen saturation levels. “We had a patient brought in with oxygen saturation of 60%. We tried our best. He died three days later. There are several such cases of home-isolated patients seeking admission with breathing difficulties,” Dr Prasanna told TOI.