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What is an Oxygen Concentrator? Why is India in Desperate Need of It?

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    India is in the midst of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and no one can predict the future course of the present outbreak that is far more serious than the first one. India is battling the virus on all fronts, including vaccination, COVID-dedicated facilities, and an array of regulations to contain the further spread of the coronavirus infection.  

    The COVID crisis is rapidly deepening with the depletion of oxygen supply, vaccine shortage, dwindling stocks of essential medicines, and scarcity of hospital beds to treat hospitalised patients. Supplementation of oxygen is a critical aspect of COVID-19 treatment to restore patients’ vital health parameters when blood oxygen levels have decreased alarmingly. 

    Difficulty in breathing is a major concern in patients suffering from the COVID infection. Although supplementation of oxygen is essential in individuals with less than 93 percent blood oxygen saturation, the majority of patients do not require ventilator support. An oxygen concentrator brings about satisfactory improvement in blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) and helps doctors prevent the need for a ventilator while treating mild-to-moderate cases of COVID infection. 

    Role of the Oxygen Concentrator

    The oxygen concentrator facilitates a convenient and affordable supply of medical oxygen, eliminating the need for bulky oxygen cylinders or monitoring by paramedical staff. It is a great boon for patients suffering from chronic respiratory disorders such as asthma or COPD, among others. It helps maintain optimum blood oxygen levels without admission to a medical care centre. 

    The system enables a convenient and non-invasive process, as the patient only has to insert a small nasal cannula inside their nostrils for a continuous supply of oxygen. We can accommodate the entire unit in a tiny space and even carry it around without hassles. The concentrator runs on an electric supply. 

    One of the most interesting attributes of an O2 concentrator is its super-silent performance that does not disturb anyone. The compact machine guarantees a seamless supply of pure oxygen by removing nitrogen from the atmospheric air. Supplementation of oxygen in the home environment is made highly convenient, as even a non-technical person can operate the user-friendly oxygen concentrator.  

    Oxygen Concentrator: A Game-Changer for India

    The current pandemic scenario in India has underlined a shortage and emergency need for the three most vital support systems, which are:

    • Medical and paramedical staff: The sudden spike in the number of patients suffering from COVID-19 has tremendously burdened India’s existing medical resources. Hospitals are understaffed, and the existing staff is overworked.

    • Hospital beds: One can witness long queues of serious patients, most of them in ICU ambulances, waiting for admission to hospitals. Some hospitals have been forced to accommodate two patients in a single bed.

    • Supply of medical oxygen: The Indian healthcare system has been suffering from an unprecedented shortage of medical oxygen because of enormous demand from patients who are on ventilator support and from those receiving nasal oxygen in hospitals.

    The COVID crisis has resulted in a cascading effect in terms of shortages of critical resources, such as hospital beds and medical staff. Oxygen concentrator systems can mitigate this immense burden on hospital staff and oxygen production units, as a large majority of moderately ill patients can manage their care in their homes.

    Causes of Acute Shortage of Oxygen Concentrators

    India will have to make provisions to produce 10500 MT of oxygen by the second fortnight of May 2021, if we assume the current growth in the number of new COVID patients per day. We can produce around 7100 MT of oxygen daily, assuming the entire industrial oxygen production from refineries and steel manufacturing plants gets diverted for medical consumption. India can only hope to bridge this gap by leveraging oxygen concentrators. 

    During the first week of April 2021, the daily average requirement of medical oxygen in India was just about 3800 MT. This escalated to a whopping 6800 MT of medical oxygen by the end of April 2021. The problem of oxygen supply to hospitals was worsened by logistics and the acute shortage of special-purpose cryogenic containers for transportation of liquid oxygen. 

    This explains the sudden rise in the demand for oxygen concentrators. India is struggling to meet the requirement of oxygen concentrators and urgently needs to explore new avenues to deal with the severe shortage of oxygen concentrator units for saving patients.   

    Hospitals Need Support to Deal with Oxygen Shortage

    Our hospitals need urgent access to oxygen concentrators. is committed to supporting the cause of saving millions of lives by arranging a sustained oxygen concentrator supply. There is an immediate need to raise funds for the procurement of more oxygen concentrators. The ambitious campaign, Mission Oxygen, is being run by Ketto with the Democracy People Foundation NGO.

    The campaign began as a self-funded initiative, however, a sudden demand for 3000 oxygen concentrators inspired them to begin the public funding campaign. You can also be a part of Mission Oxygen by contributing. Every donation, small or large, will help rekindle hopes in these times and save precious lives. 

    Sushant Peshkar
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