The number of new infections in Mumbai region are increasing rapidly due to which there is acute shortage of supplies of healthcare facilities. But by 5pm Monday all hospitals in Mumbai will have enough oxygen, says Iqbal Singh Chahal, commissioner municipal corporation of greater Mumbai (MCGM), who has been fighting every inch of the way to get supplies, even as he stared at the possibility of a wave of deaths due to serious shortages.
After hectic parlays with the Union government, Mumbai, which was first asked to source oxygen from West Bengal, was finally allocated supplies from Jamnagar in Gujarat and the Jindal Steel plant at Raigad. "The supplies have come in Sunday night and will be reached to all hospitals by 5pm Monday. Mumbai now as 40MT of oxygen as against its immediate need of 35MT in the next few days," Mr Chahal says.
The municipal commissioner has asked people not to panic and has promised that further supplies of 300MT are expected from Vishakapatnam by train by this evening.
It has been a Herculean effort by the Mumbai commissioner. On 17 April 2021, the MCGM shifted 168 patients to hospitals with adequate oxygen without a single casualty – this was done with the MCGM team working all through the night. But, with no further supplies being allocated and Mumbai fast running out of supplies, the city was staring at a crisis which has been mercifully averted.
It is a war for keeping people alive with the Mumbai municipal commissioner Mr Chahal, having to fight every inch of the way. The earlier battle and allegations were over the purchase of Remdesivir on an emergency basis at a significantly higher price. This bold decision, which was badly politicised with demands for an anti-corruption inquiry.
"The decision is likely to save lives since Remdesivir stock is available in plenty in all Mumbai civic hospitals," says the commissioner.
However, private hospitals may still struggle, but information about municipal facilities is important for citizens to keep in mind as they rush around to find Remdesivir.
Meanwhile, while the city administration has been trying hard to procure oxygen cylinders, one major supplier says it cannot provide more than 110 tonnes of oxygen per day due to limited availability of liquid medical oxygen (LMO).
In a note, INOX Air Products Pvt Ltd, says, "We shall remain committed to supply 110 tons per day of product to MCGM, however shall not be able to add any further molecules over and above 110 tons per day for your service till we are able to secure additional product from other sources if any."
"We hereby advise you to optimise the medical oxygen usage and restrict the use till further more product is available with us for your service," the company added.
The note refers to a meeting between the company official and senior officers of MCGM. It says, "The medical oxygen demand from the MCGM group of hospitals and jumbo covid facilities is rising every day and making our product supply planning the most difficult challenge of today."
"We have observed a sudden surge in demand of medical oxygen from some of the MCGM hospitals and jumbo covid centres, which may need your scrutiny or audit for applying corrective measures to prevent excess use or wastage of the precious resource medical oxygen," INOX Air Products says.
During the meeting, the company says it explained to MGCM officials the reasons for the limited availability of LMO, which is controlled by food and drugs authority (FDA) and the acute constraint in meeting the rising demand of medical oxygen for the MCGM.
While there is limited supply of medical oxygen, another issue that is popping up in Mumbai is low pressure delivery from oxygen cylinders. There are reports about oxygen levels from plant or oxygen facility being low or slowed down resulting in some patients being shifted to other hospitals or facilities.
According to a healthcare professional, in recent times, this issue is being faced at some hospitals or facilities opened by the MCGM. "Without proper pressure delivery, the ventilators cannot deliver the required amount of oxygen," he says.
Another doctor explains, "Ventilator need specific intermediate-pressure supply from centralised oxygen pipes but as we know everywhere there is supply shortage. So mostly that is causing low-pressure supply to ventilators."