Not the final word: AIIMS chief on report that Delhi inflated oxygen need

The apex court audit on Delhi’s oxygen demis an interim report not the final word, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria said on Saturday as Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, under fire for purportedly exaggerating the city’s needs, insisted the acute shortage of oxygen during Covid’s second wave was real. He also appealed for an end to political bickering for everyone to work together so no one suffers in the third wave.

The virus will win if there is a fight among stakeholders, Kejriwal tweeted, a day after his Aam Aadmi Party the BJP hit out at each each other over the report that said Delhi’s oxygen needs were exaggerated four times over during the second Covid wave.

The five-member Supreme Court appointed panel was headed by Guleria who told PTI, “It is an interim report. The oxygen needs are dynamic change from day to day. The matter is sub-judice.”

While the BJP charged the Delhi government with “criminal negligence” after the report came into the public domain on Friday, AAP leader Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia alleged that the “bogus” report was “cooked up” at BJP’s office.

“May we work now if your fight over oxygen is finished? Let us together make a system so no one faces shortage of oxygen in third wave, Kejriwal said in his tweet in Hindi a day later.

There was an acute shortage of oxygen in the second wave. It should not be so in the third wave. Corona will win if we fight with each other. The nation will win if we fight together,” he added.

Dubbing the BJP the Bharatiya Jhagda Party, his deputy Sisodia said its leaders know only how to have fights have nothing to do with either oxygen or the third Covid wave.

When the third wave will start, they will be causing fights someplace else…, he tweeted in Hindi.

The report of the Supreme Court constituted sub-group to audit oxygen consumption in hospitals in the national capital during the second wave in April-May said the Delhi government “exaggerated” the consumption of oxygen made a claim of 1,140 MT, four times higher than the formula for bed capacity requirement of 289 MT.

The panel said the Delhi government had made the claims for allocation of 700 MT oxygen on April 30 of medical grade oxygen using a “wrong formula”.

Two members, B S Bhalla, Delhi government’s principal home secretary, home, Max Healthcare’s Sandeep Budhiraja, questioned the conclusions.

The report has an annexure of communication sent by Bhalla on May 31 in which he said a reading of the draft interim report makes it painfully apparent that the sub-group, instead of focussing on the task, delineated from the terms of order of the Supreme Court dated May 6.

The manner in which the proceedings of the sub-group were conducted, he said, suggested that the purpose of proceedings was to satisfy a preconceived predetermined conclusion narrative to recommend a lower quantity of LMO to Delhi. It was also aimed at further portraying an impression that the assessment by the GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) before the high court the Supreme Court was exaggerated or not genuine, Bhalla added.

He objected to the finding of the sub-group that medical oxygen consumption as per actual bed occupancy was 250 tonnes in late April, 470-490 MT in the first week of May 900 MT as claimed on May 10.

This para should be deleted as it is neither correct nor based on verified data. With the number of new positive cases peaking in the first week of May, hospital bed occupancy continuing to rise even after that, the Oxygen requirement based on occupancy was around 625 MT at the end of April 700 MT in the first week of May, he said.

Regarding the finding that the Delhi government made exaggerated oxygen requirement claims, Bhalla said the GNCTD clarified that the calculation for 700 MT has been made in accordance with standard oxygen requirement specified by the government of India/ICMR, which is 24 litres per minutes (LPM) for ICU beds 10 LPM for non-ICU beds.

Doubts about the percentage of non-ICU beds that need oxygen can only be resolved through an actual on-ground audit of hospitals, which the audit sub-group is yet to do, he said.

Budhiraja said in his comments that a decision was taken in the first meeting itself to get actual details of oxygen consumption from all the hospitals of NCT Delhi.

“After repeated corrections (as hospital medical Superintendent used a different format), the total calculation of Oxygen consumption (based on actual consumption data of 214 hospitals) came to around 490 MT. This did not take into account, oxygen cylinder refilling non-COVID requirement of hospitals,” Budhiraja said.

He also brought to the notice of the sub-group that he did not attend the May 18 meeting. He said he gave prior information to the group on WhatsApp that minutes of the previous meeting (held on May 15) should be circulated prior to the fixing of the next meeting.

“This was never done,” he had said added that his comment be added in the interim report.

Besides Guleria, Bhalla Budhiraja, the panel comprises Subodh Yadav, joint secretary in the Jal Shakti Ministry, Sanjay Kumar Singh, controller of explosives, Petroleum Explosives Safety Organization (PESO).

(Only the headline picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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