With COVID-19 cases surging in several parts of the country, there have been reports of some States facing acute shortage of medical oxygen. But what is medical oxygen?
Used in healthcare
You may think there is enough oxygen in the air around us. But the natural air around us has only 21% of oxygen and the rest is a mixture of other gases such as nitrogen (78%), argon and carbon dioxide. Medical oxygen is pure oxygen used for treatment of patients in hospitals. The oxygen from the ambient air is separated using a special technique, inspected and packaged into cylinders for use in hospitals. There are different grades of oxygen such as industrial oxygen, aviator breathing oxygen, and medical oxygen.
The oxygen we breathe gets into our bloodstream, providing our body with energy. Every cell in our body needs oxygen for proper functioning if there is not enough oxygen in our bloodstream to supply our tissues and cells, then we need supplemental oxygen to keep our organs healthy. Medical oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Illnesses such as this cause the oxygen level in the body to dip, which affects the functioning of the cells, if left untreated. If the cells don’t function properly, it affects the organs and the functioning of all systems in the body, causing even death in extreme cases. So giving medical oxygen becomes essential as it restores the oxygen level in the cells and tissues, saving life. COVID-19 is said to primarily affect the lungs in patients. As it causes oxygen deficiency in the body because of its impact on the lungs, patients are put on oxygen therapy to maintain the function of the vital organs. Again, too much oxygen can be dangerous. That’s why doctors and caregivers keep a close eye on patients to ensure that they get only the required amount of medical oxygen, and not more. Did you know a pulse oximeter, a small, clip-like device into which a finger is inserted, tracks blood oxygen levels, and can diagnose oxygen deficiency?
States with a high demand
Amid the spike in cases, the Centre has decided to import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen plants at 100 new hospitals in far-flung areas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for synergy between various ministers and State governments to ensure smooth supply of medical oxygen and for ramping up its production.
According to the Union health ministry, the Centre-appointed Empowered Group (EG2), constituted last year to ensure availability of essential medical equipment during the pandemic, is monitoring the situation of demand and supply of medical oxygen. The country has the capacity to produce over 7,000 metric tonnes of oxygen per day. It is said that the maximum consumption of medical oxygen is by States with high COVID-19 cases such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Rajasthan.
Picture Credit : Google