New Delhi: Amid reports of a delayed and disjointed distribution of the foreign Covid-19 aid India has been receiving, the central government Wednesday clarified that a “streamlined and systematic mechanism for allocation” of the resources had been put in place to ensure all states were getting a share.
Some states ThePrint spoke to confirmed they had received a part of the aid while others as well as several government-run hospitals said they were waiting on supplies.
As of Monday, India had received 25 flights loaded with 300 tonnes of emergency Covid-19 relief supplies. According to reports, these included 5,500 oxygen concentrators, 3,200 oxygen cylinders and 1,36,000 remdesivir injections.
The global community has been pitching in to help India battle the second wave of the coronavirus that has seen the country’s disease burden go up manifold, leading to an acute shortage of oxygen, medical equipment and supplies, often with fatal consequences.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in a statement issued Tuesday, said: “The global community has extended a helping hand in supporting the efforts of the Government of India in this collective fight against the global COVID19 pandemic. Medical equipment, medicines, oxygen concentrators, ventilators etc., are being provided by many countries. A streamlined and systematic mechanism for allocation of the support supplies received by India has been put into place, for effective distribution of the medical and other relief and support material.”
In an another statement released Tuesday evening, the government denied it had wasted time in the effective allocation and distribution of Covid relief material. This was in response to an article that claimed the government took seven days to create protocols for the distribution while the oxygen crisis worsened.
The Centre said it distributed 40 lakh medical equipment across 38 medical institutions in the country. It also said the 31 states and UTs have either received aid or equipment had been dispatched and was en route.
Not all hospitals receive equipment
According to the health ministry statement issued Tuesday, 24 different categories of items numbering nearly 40 lakh has been distributed to 38 institutions in different states.
The equipment received by India largely fall under these major categories — BiPAP Machines, Oxygen (Oxygen Concentrators, Oxygen Cylinders, PSA Oxygen Plants, Pulse Oximeters), Drugs (faviparivir and remdesivir) and PPE (Coveralls, N-95 masks and gowns).
Among the 38 institutions to have received aid are AIIMS hospitals (Delhi, Bhatinda, Jhajjar) and the recently set up DRDO hospitals across the country apart from from Lady Hardinge Medical College & Associated Hospitals and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi and the Regional Institute of Medical Science in Imphal.
Speaking to ThePrint, AIIMS Patna Director Prabhat Kumar said they had received 60 oxygen concentrators that were part of the foreign relief material. “We have so far received 60 oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders and medicines are on the way. We have been told this is a part of relief material provided by foreign governments,” he said.
At AIIMS Bhopal, though, Director Sarman Singh said they were yet to receive supplies even though a list of requirements had been sent.
“Over the last one week, I have been in touch with the Ministry of Health and during our correspondence, I have sent them a list of material required at our hospital. We have been assured that help will be provided,” he said.
The hospital is in need of oxygen concentrators, cylinders and the much sought after antiviral drug remdisivir.
A senior doctor at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi told ThePrint that they had already received some aid and more was in the process of reaching the hospital. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the doctor said, “We have already received some medical equipment, including oxygen concentrators and cylinders. It would not be apt to speak about the quantities yet since the conversation is ongoing, but we have been assured that the hospital will get the required medical necessities.”
ThePrint reached a senior Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) official for a comment. He, however, refused to speak, stating: “Since the health ministry has issued a press release, they will be in the best position to answer the question.”
In its statement Tuesday, the health ministry said a cell had been created under the additional secretary, Health, to coordinate the receipt and allocation of foreign Covid-19 relief material as grants, aid and donations.
“This Cell started functioning on 26th April 2021 and comprises one Joint Secretary on deputation from Ministry of Education, two Addl. Secy level officers from MEA [external affairs ministry], Chief Commissioner Customs, Economic Advisor from Ministry of Civil Aviation, Technical Advisor Dte. GHS, Representatives from HLL, two Joint Secretaries from MoHFW and Secretary General along with other representatives from IRCS,” the statement said.
“This help is over and above what the Govt of India is already providing, and is thus an additionality for the states and UTs. Later on, supplies coming from private companies, entities etc also started routing through the Niti Aayog and are handled by this cell,” it further read.
Some states still await aid, others wait for more
Hussan Lal, Principal Secretary, Health, Punjab, told ThePrint that the state had received communication from the central government regarding an allocation of 150 oxygen concentrators and 2,100 remdesivir injections.
“While 100 oxygen concentrators have been received, the remdesivir doses and rest of the concentrators are yet to be received,” he said, adding, “As per the information available in the media, we knew that the GOI had procured 1 lakh oxygen concentrators … keeping this in mind, the state had indicated a demand for 3,500 oxygen concentrators. We are hopeful that we will receive more oxygen concentrators to tide over the shortage.”
However, in Odisha, Health Incharge Pradipta Mohapatra said, “We haven’t heard anything from the central government yet. We had written to them after our meeting with NITI Aayog on 3 May this month.”
According to the letter sent by the state, which ThePrint accessed, the Odisha government requested for oxygen cylinders and concentrators of various types. This, Mohapatra said, was in “anticipation of demand rise if the Covid situation gets worse in the state”.
Meanwhile Tamil Nadu’s Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan told ThePrint, “It would be more apt if you speak to the state finance department regarding this. There was a meeting held between the states and Centre but it would not be correct to share specifics as of now.”
The health ministry assured that all states and union territories were being covered under the foreign aid distribution, and those that have yet to receive anything will soon get a shipment.
“As the different tranches are coming in, the rest of the states and UTs will also be covered in the coming days,” the statement issued Tuesday said.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)