Indicating the acuteness of the shortage, private hospitals in the city say that irregular suppliers of medical oxygen, as the second wave of Covid-19 devastates the capital of Karnataka, that they are forced to procure from are charging at least three times the price fixed by the government. At the same time, industry representatives reiterated that the organised sector is not black-marketing.
However, both agree that the demand has gone up by at least 300% with a surge in ICU and HDU admissions as the second wave sweeps across Bengaluru.
Several industry representatives, while allaying fears of a prolonged supply problem, said the demand could be met by the end of this week.
Dr HM Prasanna, president of, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA), said: “Medical oxygen price per cubic meter is regulated, which is inclusive of transportation cost.
With a short supply, many hospitals, especially smaller ones, are buying from anywhere they can get it. While regular suppliers are charging around Rs 50 as they include handling and other charges, just last week I paid Rs 75 per cubic metre to a non-regular supplier, which is around three times the cost.”
A few private hospitals said that the going rate in the city is around Rs 800-Rs 900 per cylinder. Puneet Sonu, an OT Staff from Krishna hospital on Magadi Road, said: “We need about 25-26 cylinders every 12 h. With the regular suppliers unable to fulfil our demand we are forced to purchase from outside. Just yesterday we purchased 10 cylinders at Rs 900.”
Health minister K Sudhakar said action will be initiated against anybody overcharging while reiterating that the supply situation will improve in the next few days.
Subhashish Guha Roy, managing director, Universal Air Products, said that the per cylinder price is Rs 202, including 12% tax while transportation charges are additional. “I will not comment on what price some unorganised vendor is selling at. I can assure you that we don’t charge more than the fixed price,” he said.
At least two other big suppliers stressed that there was no overcharging while pointing out that the demand has increased multifold.
As an example, one industry representative said Akash hospital is installing a 6,000-litre vessel. “Earlier they were procuring through a 990-litre tanker,” the person said.
Roy said that the massive surge in cases meant that there was a sudden surge in demand which caused some stress and the industry couldn’t meet it.
“From around 40-50 tonnes per day earlier, the demand now is around 250-300 tonne which is around five times more. There was a problem of raw material which is being sorted out, and I don’t think that the problem will be resolved in the next few days,” he added.
A representative from another big supplier operating in multiple Indian states said from selling around 25-26 tonne per day in February and March, they are selling 58 tonnes now.
The firm is even bringing oxygen from Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala to meet demand here.
Guruprasad Rao, senior manager (sales and marketing), Bhuruka Gases, said: “We produce around 65 tonnes per day. Before the pandemic, we sold around 50 tonnes per day, around 80% of which went to the industry as hospital demand was less. Now, we are selling nearly everything we produce and 80% of that is going to the hospital. You can see by how much the medical demand has increased.”
All three said that with the supply to the industry being diverted, the medical oxygen demand will be met easily. “The industry needs roughly around 100-150 tonnes per day, now that it is also being diverted to hospitals, there should be no problem,” Roy said.
Private hospitals, however, argued that in the present situation, government intervention must increase in not just ensuring supplies but also keeping a watch on the price.