A few months ago, they were busy constructing roads, bridges and toll plazas. Now the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is engaged in another important task - construction of oxygen plants at major government hospitals in Kerala.
The first plant at the Government Medical College Hospital at Parippally in Kollam district with a generation capacity of 1000 Litres Per Minute (LPM) has been completed.
This is one of the 300-odd medical oxygen plants being set up by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the country utilising funds from the PM Cares. Kerala will get a total of 13 plants in different phases.
Apart from Prippally, two Kerala hospitals - Government Women and Children hospital in Alappuzha and Government Hospital in Pala - will get oxygen plants in the first phase in which 72 plants will be set up. The Alappuzha plant is expected to be commissioned on May 30.
Three Kerala hospitals will get the facilities in the second phase. They are: General Hospital, Muvattupuzha (Ernakulam district), General Hospital, Thrissur and Malappuram District Hospital in Tirur. A total of 52 plants are planned in this phase.
Seven plants will be installed in General Hospital, Alappuzha, INHS Sanjivani, Kochi, Kasaragod District Hospital, Kanhangad, General Hospital, Changanacherry, Government Medical College Hospital, Manjeri, Malappuram District Hospital at Perinthalmanna and General Hospital, Neyyatinkara, at a later stage. The ministry envisages 200 plants in different states in this stage.
At General Hospital, Neyyatinkara, which has space constraints, the NHAI will convert a medical store building into an oxygen plant.
While the NHAI is in charge of civil and electrical works, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is responsible for the plant installation. The infrastructure for each plant will cost between Rs 9 and 10 lakh.
The Parippally plant, which uses Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) technology, was completed in 10 days. "We could complete the construction in 10 days thanks to the easy availability of land, labourers and good weather,” said an NHAI official.
The state governments have to ensure land, power supply, power backup, oxygen pipeline system etc for the plants. Apart from this, two technical persons from each hospital should be deputed to manage the plant and a nodal officer for coordination.
Kerala, once hailed an oxygen self-sufficient state, started feeling the pinch when the number of patients who require oxygen and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions soared during the current second wave of the pandemic.
Feeling the pinch
Kerala generates 219 metric tonnes (MT) of medical oxygen everyday. The State’s buffer stock of 450 MT began dwindling due to the increased demand from neighbouring states. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan flagged this issue in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 10. The letter stated that Kerala’s buffer medical oxygen stock stood at 86MT.
G R Gokul, nodal officer for medical oxygen management in the State, said the State’s buffer stock showed a slight improvement in the wake of decrease in fresh infections. Kerala registered 28,798 fresh infections on Tuesday (May 26). The number was 42,264 on May 6.