The Madras high court on Thursday urged the State and the central governments to ensure equitable distribution of medical oxygen, COVID-19 vaccines and other life saving materials, by ramping up the production capacity.
The position should not be altered to the detriment of a State, particularly Tamil Nadu, since it has production capacity of about 400 MT of oxygen cylinders per day, which with some additional supply may suffice for its needs.
The Union and the empowered committee should take immediate steps in such regard to ensure adequate supply of oxygen to Tamil Nadu to meet the needs.
This must be ensured by Friday, so that the emergency that the officials speak of of the reserve supply running out by Saturday does not happen, the first bench of Sanjeeb Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said.
It is critical and requires the attention of the highest offices so that lives are not lost for want of oxygen, the bench said when the the issue of shortage of beds, ventilators and vaccines and alleged diversion of medical oxygen to other states came up for further hearing on Thursday.
The court had taken up the matter on its own.
It also noted that the Defence Research and Development Organisation has installed oxygen generating machines in some hospitals elsewhere at extremely short notice and at costs which are affordable.
The state and the Union should facilitate the setting up of such units, if feasible, in Tamil Nadu, particularly in larger cities like Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai, the judges said.
On the availability of beds, the bench expressed its satisfaction with the observation that the State was doing well, though 95 per cent of the beds having oxygen supply remain occupied.
According to the officials, roughly 70 per cent of the overall bed capacity is occupied but a large proportion of the available beds do not have oxygen supply.
The officials have, however, indicated measures have been initiated to augment bed capacity, including oxygenated ones and that the same would be available shortly.
On the drug Remdesivir, the bench was told that the allocated quantity for the State since April, 2021 is 1.35 lakh units against the order placed of 2.5 lakh units.
The officials claimed that about 24,000 units had been distributed from the Kilpauk centre upon appropriate documents being produced.
The judges directed the government to set up more such centres in other major cities, including Madurai and Coimbatore for release of Remdesivir directly to private hospitals or patient parties.
In respect of vaccination, the State said that the Centre has indicated two vendors from whom vaccines can be obtained.
The State's allocation at present is 10.3 lakh units, of which 7.65 lakh is to be supplied by one and 2.65 lakh units by the other.
The vendors, apparently, demanded prior payment and payment for all of the 10.3 lakh units has been made on May 4 for the state to immediately receive the vaccines and start the universal adult inoculation programme.
The judges directed the Centre and the vendors to ensure prompt supply so that preventive measures may be taken at the earliest to stop the increase in cases and the possible third wave that is being talked of.
As regards the 13 deaths in the government hospital in Chengalpattu, the bench said that it can wait for an official report from the government.
The bench noted to its dismay that the Sterlite unit at Tuticorin is unlikely to produce oxygen till next week.
"There must be constant coordination and the district collectors may be given additional responsibility in such regard, leaving their revenue and other duties to others, to monitor and coordinate the measures taken, to make the facilities available, including the supply and distribution of oxygen and the like," the bench added and posted the matter for further hearing on May 12.