How Motor Vehicles Department helped avert an oxygen crisis in Kerala

Kochi: Kerala’s Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) played a big role in saving the state from an oxygen shortage as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country. Over the last 16 days, officials of the department helped transport 1,100 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to various government hospitals across the state.

MVD took up the task of oxygen distribution by collaborating with the state’s Health Department and many of its officials worked round-the-clock to ensure that the vehicles carrying the life-saving gas reached hospitals on time. In the process, they also used advanced technologies such as the vehicle tracking system.

200 tonnes a day

Every day, government hospitals in Kerala received an average of 200 metric tonnes of medical oxygen, thanks to the MVD initiative. Around 1.10 lakh oxygen cylinders were also refilled and distributed. In addition, the MVD seized 32 cryogenic oxygen tankers and 138 carrier vehicles for the purpose.

War room set up

Another crucial measure was the opening of a centralized oxygen war room headed by the state Transport Secretary and senior IAS officer K R Jyothilal to coordinate the oxygen distribution. Moreover, the Managing Director of the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation trained its drivers in handling oxygen tankers and deputed them for the effort.  MVD officials, including Regional Transport Officers (RTOs), in all districts were alert to ensure the smooth passage of the oxygen vehicles.

Live tracking

According to Additional Transport Commissioner in charge of distribution Pramod Shankar, all oxygen vehicles were connected with the war room by GPS, which made tracking easier and removing hurdles whenever they emerged. “This was enabled with the Suraksha Mitra app developed by C-DAC,” he said.

As a result of these efforts, MVD brought oxygen from Odisha, Bengal and the only private liquid oxygen plant in Kerala, Inox at Kanjikode, Palakkad, to the hospitals. When Oxygen Express, the central government’s project to transport the gas by train, reached Kerala, it was the MVD’s vehicles that carried out the supply to hospitals.

Modification of tankers

Yet another contribution of the MVD officials was the conversion of LNG tankers to oxygen tankers. “The officials themselves created the couplings needed for the purpose,” said Joint RTO, Aluva B Shereef.

First Oxygen Express arrives in Kerala
First oxygen express to Kerala. Photo: IANS

COVID-19 affects officials

Incidentally, most of the MVD personnel who travelled to other states and different parts of Kerala to bring oxygen are now in quarantine. In fact, many of them have also tested positive for the disease.

Oxygen to cost more from June 1

Meanwhile, the price of oxygen and related equipment is all set to rise from June 1. This is expected to create a serious situation as at present, 30 per cent of the COVID-19 patients in hospital need oxygen support.

According to a notice sent by oxygen distributors to hospitals, the cost of filling a 7-cubic-metre oxygen cylinder would go up from Rs 300 to Rs 400-500. Hospitals charge Rs 900 and above to provide oxygen to a patient for a full day. Depending on the patient’s condition, more than one cylinder may be needed.

The price of oxygen flow meter, which shows the oxygen level in a cylinder, was recently increased from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500.

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