In face of reports of a statewide oxygen crisis, the Maharashtra government has dictated how much oxygen a patient should use, naming figures that have outraged doctors. The government order is the "biggest, brutal attack on the lives of patients," said the state unit of the Indian Medical Association, the top organization of medical professionals in the country.
Oxygen consumption should be limited to 7 litres a minute for Covid patients in hospital wards, the government has said in a circular to hospitals. For patients in the Intensive Care units, the corresponding figure should be 12 litres a minute.
Doctors said for critical patients who are in Intensive Care Units or on ventilator support, the government figures are just a fraction of what they might need.
Dr Avinash Bhondwe, the president of the state unit of the Indian Medical Association said a patient who is not affected by coronavirus may need two to ten litres of oxygen per minute. A patient in the Intensive Care Unit can need 10 to 30 liters a minute. For a patient who is on ventilator, the need could be as much as 30 litres to 90 litres a minute.
"Every doctor gives as much oxygen as he needs to save his patient's life," Dr. Avinash Bhondwe told NDTV. "This is an attack on the knowledge and study of doctors to save patients. The Indian Medical Association Maharashtra strongly forbids this," he added.
The Association of Medical Consultants, a medical consultancy group, also strongly opposed the decision. They suggested that in case of oxygen shortage, oxygen concentrator machines be used which draws oxygen directly from air and takes it to the patient.
Repeating figures suggested by the IMA, Dr Deepak Baid, president of the AMC, said, "The government is not aware of the ground reality. Or they are being given wrong information".
Data from Maharashtra government shows that the state not only has the maximum number of Covid patients in the country, but it also has far too many critically ill patients who need oxygen.
Data from the period between August 31 -- when there was a huge jump in cases -- and September 20 shows that in 21 days, the number of active patients in Maharashtra increased by 53 per cent.
According to the circular, around 15 per cent of these active patients are on oxygen support, compared to the national figure of 5 per cent to 6 per cent patients needing oxygen.
Maharashtra government's data also says that more than 1,000 metric tons of oxygen is produced in the state every day, of which 600 metric tons is consumed by Covid patients.
Last week, Dr Bhondwe had told NDTV that only "60 per cent of what is needed is being supplied", which has triggered black marketing of oxygen across the state.
Calling it a huge failure of the administration, he said, "Oxygen is not being supplied at all in many such districts of Pune, Solapur, Satara, Osmanabad, Thane, Kolhapur in Maharashtra".