States ask Centre to increase supply of oxygen cylinders, Remdesivir to hospitals

NEW DELHI: Increasing supply of oxygen cylinders and Remdesivir in hospitals, adding ventilator stocks and enhanced supply of vaccine doses were issues raised by 11 states and Union Territories at a meeting convened by the Centre on Saturday amid a spurt in coronavirus cases.

The high-level meeting was chaired by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan with the health ministers of 11 states and union territories to review measures taken by them for prevention, containment and management of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

The states, including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, have been reporting an unprecedented surge in new COVID cases.

In a statement, the Health Ministry said issues pertaining to augmenting the supply of oxygen cylinders, stepping up supply of Remdesivir in hospitals, adding to the ventilator stock, and enhanced supply of vaccine doses were raised by almost all the 11 states that participated in the meeting.

“Many of them raised the issue of dovetailing the medical oxygen supply lines and capping of prices of essential drugs like Remdesivir which has been sold in the black market at exorbitant prices.

“Double mutant strain in Maharashtra was a key point of concern. The Delhi government requested for additional beds in central government hospitals as was done in 2020 to help tide over the emergent health crisis,” the ministry said.

The notification of the Home Ministry, granting permission to states to utilize up to 50 per cent of their annual allocation of State Disaster Response Fund, and that of the Union Health Ministry, allowing utilization of unspent pending balance under National Health Mission as on April 1, 2021 for COVID management purposes, were reiterated, it said.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan informed the states on the steps taken to provide medical grade oxygen and augmenting Remdesivir stocks in the country.

The states were also informed about the issuance of the calendar of medical oxygen supply from different oxygen manufacturers in the country.

The steps taken for unhindered movement of oxygen cylinders from their manufacturing units across states were also detailed, the ministry said.

Taking note of the active surge in cases witnessed since last February in which most states have now crossed their highest tally, Harsh Vardhan exhorted states to plan in advance and increase COVID hospitals, oxygenated beds and other relevant infrastructure to deal with any further spike in cases.

He urged the states to give special focus on the prominent five to six cities in their administration and map medical colleges to either these cities or adjoining 2-3 districts.

The states were asked to seek out positive cases with the onset of early symptoms so that prompt and effective treatment checks the deterioration of health in the diseased, the statement said.

Large containment zones for achieving community quarantine were also suggested as a strategy.

The Union minister reminded states to send clinical and epidemiological pictures to assess genomic mutants of the pathogen to the coordinating INSACOG nodal officer and attempt to correlate the public health scenario with the clinical picture, it said.

During the metting, Vardhan assured fresh supply of the lifesaving machines, saying 1,121 ventilators are to be given to Maharashtra, 1,700 to Uttar Pradesh, 1,500 to Jharkhand, 1,600 to Gujarat, 152 to Madhya Pradesh and 230 to Chhattisgarh.

Detailing the number of beneficiaries vaccinated in each targeted segment of the population, Vardhan also addressed the issue of vaccine shortage.

“The total consumption of vaccines so far (wastage included) has been approximately 12. 57 crore doses against the 14.15 crore doses provided by the Centre to the states,” he said.

Vardhan said about 1.58 crore doses are still available with the states while another 1.16 crore doses are in pipeline, to be delivered by next week.

“Stocks of every small state are replenished after seven days. For big states, the time period is four days,” he added.

Emphasizing that there is no shortage of vaccines, he strongly pushed for further ramping up the vaccination exercise.

Vardhan also detailed the corresponding rise in health infrastructure to cope with the crisis.

“From just one lab at the start of the pandemic, we now have 2,463 labs that have a combined daily testing capacity of 15 lakhs.

14,95,397 tests conducted in the last 24 hours have increased the total tests conducted to 26,88,06,123.

“The three-tier health infrastructure to treat COVID according to severity now includes 2,084 dedicated COVID hospitals (of which 89 are under the Centre and the rest 1,995 with states), 4,043 dedicated COVID health centres and 12,673 COVID care centres.

They have 18,52,265 beds in total including 4,68,974 beds in the dedicated COVID hospitals,” he said.



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