Why India Is Facing A Medical Oxygen Crisis? Know All About Medical Oxygen Here

by Shatakshi Gupta

The second wave of Coronavirus has revealed the true face of weak health infrastructure in the country. Apart from the lack of beds in the hospital, patients are not even getting oxygen. The situation is so grave that daily people are dying in the paucity of oxygen. Now, the government is buying 50,000 metric tons of oxygen. Amid this hue and cry, several questions are arising in the minds of people that when we all breathe in the air and it is present all around us, so why there is a need to supply oxygen in cylinders. In this article, we are going to answer your queries.

Why we cannot simply fill the air in cylinders?

The air around us contains only 21% oxygen. It cannot be used in a medical emergency. Therefore, medical oxygen is prepared in specialised plants in a special scientific way. This pure oxygen is then supplied to hospitals after liquefaction.

What is Medical Oxygen?

Medical oxygen at the product level means up to 98% pure oxygen, with no impurities such as moisture, dust or other gases.

It is an essential medicine that is included in the country’s list of essential medicines released in 2015. It has been declared essential for all three levels of healthcare. It is also included in the list of essential medicines of WHO.

Also read: Big Announcement: Indian Govt. Has Opened Door For Vaccination Of People Above 18

How is Medical Oxygen manufactured?

Oxygen remains inthe gaseous form above -183 ° C.In other words, if we cool the oxygen below -183 degrees Celsius, then it will turn into liquid. Then this pure liquefied oxygen can be filled in highly pressurised cylinders.

How this oxygen is supplied to hospitals?

Manufacturers store this liquid oxygen in large tankers. From large tankers, extremely cold liquid oxygenis transferred to cryogenic tankers for further distribution. Later, distributers fill this oxygen in smallercylinders. These cylinders are delivered directly to hospitals or smaller suppliers. However, some large hospitals have small oxygen generation plants.

If oxygen is everywhere, then why there is a crisis?

Union Minister Piyush Goyal says that before the Corona pandemic, the consumption of medical oxygen in India was between 1000 and 1200 metric tons per day, which now increased to 4,795 MT by 15 April.

According to the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association (AIIGMA), till April 12, 3,842 metric tonnes of oxygen was being supplied daily for medical use in the country.Due to the rapidly increasing demand, there is a huge problem in the supply of oxygen.Only 1200 to 1500 cryogenic tankers are available to transport liquid oxygen from the plant to the distributors across the country.It was enough till the second wave of the pandemic, but now the tankers are falling short due sudden increase in cases.

Also read: Covid-19: Updates and “Mission Covid Suraksha”

Besides, at the distributor level, there is a shortage of empty cylinders to convert liquid oxygen into gas and fill it into cylinders.

What is the current demand and supply ratio of oxygen?
  • Oxygen Production (including Plants): 7300 Metric Ton per day
  • Supplies for medical purpose: 3842 Metric Ton per day
  • Demand for medical purpose:4795 Metric Ton per day
  • Supply to industries: 3679 Metric Ton per day
  • The total stock of oxygen: 58130 Metric Ton
  • Medical oxygen stock:23582 Metric Ton
How much oxygen is required for a person?

An adult needs 7 to 8 litres of air every minute to breathe when he is not doing any work. That means around 11,000 litres of air per day. The air that goes into the lungs contains 20% oxygen, while the exhaled breath contains 15%. That is, only 5% of the oxygen used in respiration.  That is, a person needs about 550 litres of pure oxygen in 24 hours. 

The oxygen capacity of a cylinder commonly used in hospitals

Hospitals usually use oxygen cylinders of 7 cubic meter capacity. Its capacity is only 47 litres, but about 7000 litres of oxygen is filled with pressure in it.

How long an oxygen cylinder lasts?

 If a patient is given oxygen continuously with 7 cubic meter cylinders, it will last for about 20 hours.

Is there any price capping on oxygen cylinders?

The government has fixed the maximumprice of 1 cubic meter of liquid medical oxygen at Rs 15.22 and for medical oxygen at Rs 25.71 ( this price does not include tax). The capping was implemented on 25 September 2020 by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority. 

What Government is doing to tackle this crisis?
  • The government has released a tender to import 50 thousand metric tons of liquid oxygen.
  • Except for industries like steel, petroleum, the entire oxygen will be supplied in hospitals.The government has paused the supply of oxygen in non-essential industry.
  • Cryogenic tankers carrying liquid argon or nitrogen will supply oxygen now.