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Expert urges authorities to prevent black-marketing of medical oxygen

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Govt. asks state, UT authorities to allow inter-state movement of medical oxygen

The secretary of department of the health and family welfare (MoHFW) has issued a letter to the chief secretaries of all state and union territories requesting them to ensure that there is no restriction imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between states.

Commenting on the MoHFW letter, R Jagashetty, former National Advisor – Drugs Control, MoHFW said, “It is a good order in the national interest. However, it is also necessary to take care of the citizens of a particular state where it is being manufactured and also as per norms / guidelines under DCA/DCR and DCGI.”

He also pointed out that besides ensuring the continuous supply of medical oxygen, state authorities should also work on establishing a mechanism, which will prevent artificial shortage, and black-marketing of medical oxygen in their respective states and union territories.

The letter issued by the secretary of MoHFW highlights that states are trying to curb the free inter-state movement of oxygen supplies by exercising provisions under various Acts and also mandating manufacturers/suppliers located in the state to restrict their oxygen supplies only to hospitals within the state.

The letter also mentioned that it is important to emphasise that medical oxygen is an essential public health commodity and any impediment in the supplies of medical oxygen in the country may critically impact the management of patients suffering from COVID-19 in other parts of the country. Hence, it is every state’s responsibility to ensure that every hospitalised COVID–19 patient receives oxygen.

ln addition, some of the major oxygen manufacturers/suppliers already have existing supply agreements with hospitals in various states with a legal obligation to fulfil such agreements.

Recently, the Haryana Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) had issued a direction to All Air Separation Units (ASUs) situated in Haryana to act promptly and give preferential supply of liquid medical oxygen and medical oxygen to dedicated COVID-19 hospitals (DCHs), dedicated COVID-19 health centres (DCHCs) and all institutions/ hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. In the same letter, it had also instructed to follow the fixed ceiling prices of oxygen.

As on date, as per the MoHFW letter, less than 3.7 per cent of active COVID-19 patients are on oxygen support.

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