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Why is India facing Medical Oxygen shortage? Steps taken by Government to address oxygen shortage

Why is India facing Medical Oxygen shortage? Steps taken by Government to address oxygen shortage


  • GS3 || Disaster Management || Disaster Management || Preparedness & Response

Why in the news?

India is in chaos because of the second wave of coronavirus. The country’s single-day hike reached to nearly 3 lakh cases with over 2,000 fatalities.


  • India is experiencing a second wave of Covid-19 with large number of people admitted to hospitals. This has also increased the demand for medical oxygen.


  • The government of India is planning to import about 50,000 MT of medical oxygen in order to fulfil demands across the country.
  • Maharashtra has been the worst affected state as more than 10% of its overall patient numbers requiring oxygen support.
  • It is currently taking 50 tonnes of oxygen daily from Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. It will also receive 100 tonnes from Reliance’s Jamnagar plant.
  • States like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are staring at shortages as cases have been rapidly escalating without showing signs of slowdown.
  • The centre has appointed an Empowered Group-2 to look after medical supplies during the pandemic. They have been exclusively focusing on states of Maharashtra, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan Karnataka, UP, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana, where demand is expected to shoot up.
  • Use of oxygen Oxygen is currently used in iron and steel industry, hospitals, pharmaceutical units and the glass industry. Most states have diverted oxygen for medical use.
  • Many smaller industries have diverted their resources in producing medical oxygen after the crisis in previous wave.

What is medical oxygen?

  • Medical oxygen is oxygen that has been purified to be used in the human body. As a result, it’s used in medical treatments.
  • Medical oxygen cylinders are filled with high-purity oxygen gas (99.5 percent purity). The medical oxygen cylinder does not contain any other gases. This is to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Before filling up oxygen cylinders that have already been used for other purposes, they must be evacuated, properly washed, and correctly labeled.

Need of medical oxygen:

  • Serve as a foundation for almost all current anesthetic techniques.
  • Improve oxygen supply to restore tissue oxygen stress. Shock, serious hemorrhage, carbon monoxide poisoning, major injuries, and cardiac/respiratory arrest are all treated with this.
  • Assist patients who are artificially ventilated with life support.
  • Assist patients’ cardiovascular stability.
  • To help a critically ill patient’s pulse remain stable.

Disadvantage of medical oxygen:

  • Medical oxygen has several side effects when used in excess of the recommended dosage. This is why an oxygen prescription from a doctor is necessary. The following are some of the disadvantage:
    • After a few hours of exposure to oxygen at pressures above 3bar, patients will experience convulsions or seizures (g)
    • If premature infants are exposed to oxygen concentrations greater than 40%, it may cause Retrolenticular fibroplasia. In a nutshell, it’s a disorder characterized by irregular blood vessel development in the eye. In today’s world, retrolenticular fibroplasia is the leading cause of child blindness.
    • After being placed on medical oxygen, some patients will experience coughing and respiratory problems.
    • Oxygen toxicity is a serious problem that can damage the lungs and other organ systems if they are given too much or too little oxygen.

Government initiatives to increase the availability of medical oxygen: 

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) transferred its authority to the NPPA under the Disaster Management Act of 2005. Take all appropriate measures to control the availability and pricing of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) and oxygen cylinders, in particular.
  • In addition, the NPPA set a six-month price limit on medical oxygen cylinders and LMO to ensure that oxygen is available at a fair price.
  • The Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) has recently developed an oxygen enrichment unit (OEU) that may help COVID-19 patients. A system that concentrates oxygen from the ambient air is known as an oxygen enrichment unit.
  • Medical oxygen capacity mapping in 12 high-burden states: The Centre-appointed Empowered Group-2 mapped the medical oxygen capability in 12 high-burden states. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, Delhi, among other states.
  • Hospitals to be identified for PSA plant installation: The MOHFW recently approved the installation of 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption plants at hospitals to increase oxygen capacity by over 154 metric tons.
  • Industrial oxygen manufacturers were permitted to manufacture LMO during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hurdles in way: 

  • Cryogenic tankers are in short supply to store and transport oxygen throughout the world. Owing to a scarcity of resources, the time it takes to transport has been growing.
  • The current shortage is primarily due to rising transportation costs as well as cylinder refilling costs.

Way ahead: 

  • Installing pressure swing absorption (PSA) plants in hospitals to allow them to produce their own oxygen and become self-sufficient.
  • Building massive storage tanks to store supplies for up to ten days. This would eliminate the need to wait for cylinders on a regular basis. To avoid wastages, judicious use of oxygen is needed.
  • This involves using oxygen for patients who have a saturation level of less than 94 percent. It is possible to avoid leakage and waste caused by poor management. Faster transit should be prioritized.

Additional info: 

  • Medical oxygen regulatory provisions in India Medical oxygen is on the National List of Essential Medicines, according to the Drug Prices Control Order of 2013. (NLEM).
  • The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority will keep an eye on and regulate the prices of essential medicines on the National List (NLEM).
  • As a result, the NPPA regulates and tracks medical oxygen prices in India..

Mains oriented question: 

First and second wave of Covid 19 pandemic has hit hard on medical system of almost every develop and developing country but if we see India how far is India Prepared of any such Pandemic or disaster?