A tempo carries oxygen cylinders on the Ahmedabad-Surat Highway | Representational image | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
A tempo carries oxygen cylinders on the Ahmedabad-Surat Highway | Representational image | Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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New Delhi: In October, while India was experiencing its first Covid peak, the government invited tenders for 150 pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen plants — which are built into hospital premises, and thus reduce their dependence on cylinders — with a cumulative capacity of 80,500 litres per minute.

This January, the number of sanctioned facilities appeared to increase as the government said it had allocated Rs 201.58 crore for the setting up of 162 PSA plants across India. However, on 18 April, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare announced that only 33 of these had been set up around the country. 

A PSA oxygen plant employs a technology that absorbs nitrogen from ambient air to concentrate oxygen for supply to hospitals. They operate at near-ambient temperatures and use specific adsorbent materials (that trap a substance on their surface) like zeolites, activated carbon, molecular sieves etc to trap oxygen at high pressure. 

While the oxygen produced by these plants is believed to be less pure than liquid oxygen derived from cryogenic technology, the plants could have helped ease the ongoing medical oxygen crisis that has emerged as one of the biggest challenges in India’s battle against the second Covid wave, say industry experts. The plants are also described as being more economical. 

The Central Medical Services Society (CMSS), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is the nodal agency issuing tenders in this regard and is responsible for installation and commissioning. It invited tenders last October to set up PSA oxygen plants in government hospitals. 

The orders, industry sources say, were placed in December but when vendors reached the hospitals for installation, many “faced resistance”.

“The usual response was there is no space. The real reason though was probably vested interests in continued procurement of oxygen rather than generating the entire requirement onsite,” said an industry source.

ThePrint reached CMSS Director General Suresh Puri and Nipun Vinayak, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Health, by phone and text several times over several days, but there was no response to queries about the status of the PSA plants. An email to the health ministry also went unanswered. 

In its tweets on 18 April, the health ministry said the 162 plants will help boost India’s medical oxygen capacity by 154.19 metric tonnes. 

“Out of 162 PSA plants sanctioned by Govt of India, 33 have already been installed,” it added, saying another 59 will be installed by April end, and 80 by May end. 


Also Read: Lay on belly for oxygen: AIIMS Patna’s new Covid SOP skips mention of remdesivir, favipiravir


‘To be operational soon’

The criticality of oxygen in the treatment of Covid, a disease that attacks the respiratory system, is well known. 

In a document issued in April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) said: “The ability to boost capacity to deliver oxygen therapy is the cornerstone of the overall approach to managing the Covid-19 outbreak and it has implications for the functioning of the entire system. The principles… of building surge capacity should be integrated into a health system’s readiness and response capacities for all functions — either centrally, or at facility level.”

The issue of adequate availability of oxygen in India is being looked after by an empowered group of secretaries headed by Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade. 

The CMSS, government sources said, has assured this group that all the 162 PSA plants will be operational soon.

‘Economical, but less pure’

Hospital owners who have installed PSA plants on their premises say they are more economical than cylinders. A plant that can supply 24 cylinders worth of gas per day costs about Rs 33 lakh to set up and can be completed in a couple of weeks. 

A 240-bed hospital with 40 ICU beds uses oxygen worth about Rs 5 lakh per month during normal times. Such a hospital, industry sources say, would need to spend approx. Rs 50 lakh to set up a PSA with the requisite oxygen capacity, and break even — recover cost of setting up the plant from the revenues generated — within 18 months.

Industry experts, however, said liquid oxygen produced using cryogenic technology has more purity compared to oxygen generated through the PSA process. The purity of the former is 99 per cent, compared to only around 93 per cent for the latter, they added. 

They noted that PSA plants can be installed in around one month if equipment is readily available. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a hospital owner who is getting a PSA plant installed said: “If I do not have oxygen for 20 minutes, patients die. This is why a captive plant is crucial. We are already in such a bad state now. We need to be prepared for the third wave.”

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)


Also Read: What is medical oxygen Covid patients need — how much India has & why there’s a shortage


 

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25 COMMENTS

  1. If the cost of a small oxygen plant is around 50 Lakhs and govt is facing problem finding investors than sure their is big lack of communication between the authorities and public. Govt. of India or state governments should contact with NRI through the embassies. Am sure they will find many investors. Many people and organizations will be ready to invest on the basis of no profit no loss. Seeing the situation govt should act quick so that the problem is solved for now and future

  2. Media like The print, Quint and the scroll are having a field day. More than concern, their intention is to make the most of this opportunity to tear one man apart. Luckily, there are no oxygen shortage deaths reported today…Let us salute the those serving the sick and use the period to help the needy with whatever we can.

  3. I don’t understand the purity argument. The air we normally breathe is 21% O2, so anything above that should work ?

  4. We need oxygen cylinder for patients and people who all are suffering from shortage of oxygen . So please send oxygen supply for helping the people who all are suffering from covid .

  5. Bunch of lies combined with misinformation.
    States were to work out site approval within their jurisdiction.

    Many states went into hibernation.

    Kerala TN UP and Assam expanded O² production…..rest failed

    Delhi failed miserably

    The print ended Misprinting

    • Many states went into hibernation ,then
      Uttar pradesh terribly hit
      Karnataka drowning
      Gujarat difficulty to find place for burning bodies
      55.97 percent is filled with the ruling party ,and still nd still let’s search someone else to be held responsible.
      Lest burn humanity or bury it all together

    • Sites were already allocated by Delhi Government to centre. The duty of floating tenders, Installation and Commissioning was of CMSS, the body that comes under Health and Family ministry of Central Government. Don’t bluff

  6. can you give a state wise breakup of nos sanction and nos active. this will give clear picture of respective state govts. too. why blame the central govt alone.

  7. Dear Ms Sunanda Rajan,
    The numbers of PSA ,
    33,59,80 as given in your article exceeds 162 which is the sanctioned number. Please clarify.

  8. They created problems and during critical situations, people hold centre responsible. Why consumers don’t apprehend requirement and asked for requirement with proper plan .Hospital, state administration also should hold responsible for the death of patients in case it due to shortage of oxygen ?

  9. The author is not aware of the Medical Oxygen specification. PSA system produces medical grade oxygen and matter end.

  10. Common man will die because of infrastructure lapses and they will soon forget these disasters. No one is held accountable, no one punished for all these failure. India is a country where no one owns responsibility.

  11. If such a thing had happened in a private institution the government would have arrested the owner.
    Now the accountability should be fixed on the persons who did not allow the oxygen plants to be installed.
    They should be booked for manslaughter.

  12. History will censure us. World may be laughing at us We sent Manglayan n Chandrayan n at ground level we failed, we could not build Oxygen plants in hospitals which is basic sorry very basic requiremen of any health care i.e. Oxygen

  13. The definition of medical oxygen is O2 with over 82% purity which is oil free and moisture free. So less pure (has no meaning in this context)

    Government should have installed this in every hospital over the last year.

  14. Government has given permission for so many apartment in lakes etc but no oxygen and water really cool

  15. The orders, industry sources say, were placed in December but when vendors reached the hospitals for installation, many “faced resistance”.

    “The usual response was there is no space. The real reason though was probably vested interests in continued procurement of oxygen rather than generating the entire requirement onsite,” said an industry source

    THIS IS THR CRUX OF THE PROBLEM.

    • True, but as stated there are vested interests which want to continue old methods of supply even at risk of patients life.

    • You are very correct , all Indians should bring forth the welfare of the society and the nation first while they perform their duties . The self and vested interest and benefits of an individual or a corporate should follow later .
      Nation first should be priority in all walks of life .

    • And it’s the government’s job to make sure it happens despite the hesitancy. Millions of people were also hesitant against CAA and APMC Act. Bt the government was able to do that.

      Because they actually wanted to do those things, so they were done. But things they do not care about like these plants are because of hesitancy.

      And please also cite the source when you quote something. What is the source of the quote you gave?

Comments are closed.