[Good Governance] How the Madhya Pradesh govt ensured there was no shortage of oxygen in the state
The Government of Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday announced its Kill Corona-4 campaign — a week-long aggressive initiative that will colour code villages in the state as red, yellow, and green based on the COVID-19 infection rate.
Once identified, a multi-step programme involving testing for COVID-like symptoms and giving medicines where needed; a follow-up to see if the medication has worked and if a reference to one of the state's 175 special ‘fever clinics’ is needed. According to several news reports, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has resolved to “free the entire state of Corona by May 31."
As part of that effort, all key decisions involving oxygen demand, consumption, tracking of tankers bringing liquid oxygen into the state, etc., are powered by technology.
Speaking to SocialStory, Parikipandla Narhari, IAS Commissioner, Food Safety and Controller, Food and Drugs Administration, Government of Madhya Pradesh, shared how government officials monitored oxygen services 24*7 to ensure there was no shortage of oxygen in the state.
Parikipandla Narhari, IAS Commissioner, Food Safety and Controller, Food and Drugs Administration, Government of Madhya Pradesh
Edited excerpts from the interaction:
SocialStory [SS]: What are some efforts being made by the Government of Madhya towards COVID management?
Parikipandla Narhari [PN]: As we all know, the second wave of COVID-19 has hit us with a much more virulent strain. It was identified that a few areas in larger cities like Bhopal had a higher caseload. We decided it was best to try and curb the activity there, and contain the virus before it spread to other parts of the city.
Once the areas categorised as containment zones were mandated to be under lockdown, our primary focus was to ensure that oxygen was made accessible to everyone in need, considering the nature of COVID-19 and its treatment requirements. Teams led by officers were set up to manage the demand, allocation, supply and distribution of oxygen and essential drugs.
SS: How has the oxygen control room of the Government of Madhya Pradesh helped combat the oxygen crisis in the state?
PN: The first major step towards fighting COVID-19 was setting up an Oxygen Task Force comprising a separate team of officers. During the initial stages, the team’s efforts were focused on fire-fighting and solving ad-hoc issues that were rising at the district level.
A control room was set up at the Health Corporation Office as the focal point of information for districts to reach out to in case of issues with oxygen supply. A dedicated line was installed to connect to the control room, which then communicated the need to the Nodal Officers (oxygen supply) of all districts. A dedicated team of nine employees of the Health Corporation was made to sit round-the-clock to receive calls.
One senior officer was put in charge of the control room to monitor calls. Districts with higher caseloads and high requirements of oxygen were flagged as priority districts, and 18 facilities were flagged as critical facilities and were closely monitored. Any emergency or issue was immediately escalated to the Joint Controller, FDA, and subsequently to the CFDA
However, a more sustainable plan was charted out as we felt the need for a systemic change that could help handle any future crises. Since then, we have achieved a supply of oxygen to all the facilities as per their requirement and identified gaps in our system, and we are fixing them. The geography of the state is such that the sheer distance of a few districts from oxygen sources in and around the state puts us at a disadvantage. But that did not deter us from devising a mechanism to ensure adequate supply to all the districts.
SS: How has technology played an important role in COVID-19 management?
PN: The second wave of COVID-19 created a challenge for the state administration. Things around us were changing before we realised it and could develop a plan to tackle it. Technology played a key role in us being able to constantly monitor the situation and make informed, data-backed decisions even at the grassroots level. Considering the pace at which the healthcare system had to be strengthened to hold the fort for our citizens, it is unimaginable that one could have done this without relying on technology.
All the key factors in decision making such as oxygen demand, consumption, tracking of tankers bringing liquid oxygen into the state, etc., were backed by technology. Some of our systems were set up during the first wave and were encouraged to be used even post that, anticipating the potential second wave and that helped us hit the ground running.
However, some systems were set up during the second wave and are still evolving. A lot of our communication also had to be done over video conferences because our team was not immune to COVID-19. We had a lot of our officers and their dear ones testing positive, and so to ensure the safety of everyone, remote communication was encouraged, which is unconventional for a government setup. In a nutshell, it would have been a Herculean task to manage this pandemic if not for technology
SS: How has the Government of Madhya Pradesh ensured medicine for all across the state?
PN: The Controller, Food and Drug, Madhya Pradesh, has issued an instruction on April 15, 2021, whereby earlier instructions were superseded and retail sales for Remdesivir injection were prohibited, and the stockist was directed to provide the injection only to hospitals declared as COVID hospitals. The stockist was also directed to distribute the Remdesivir injection equally to all small/big hospitals.
At the control room level, manufacturers of Remdesivir were regularly contacted for enhancing the supply of the drug in the state, and all distribution details of existing stock were floated in WhatsApp groups with drug inspectors for effective management through proper channels.
Overpricing and black-marketing of this drug were also strictly monitored and strict action has been taken against such cases in some districts.
SS: How is the Government of Madhya Pradesh preparing itself for the future?
PN: It is common knowledge that there is a high possibility of us having to face future waves of this deadly virus, and we are preparing for it by strengthening our existing healthcare system and making our processes more efficient.
One of our main focuses is strengthening our data management systems. We had different portals for different purposes, which turned out to be cumbersome while performing analyses. So we are aiming at integrating all our portals to make our supply chain more efficient — right from demand generation to distribution.
Raising awareness about the disease, its spread, treatment, and the importance of early care-seeking, especially in the rural areas, will be one of the focus areas. Having said that, the primary defensive wall of our fortress remains our healthcare facilities and their infrastructure. So, naturally, we are looking into making more effective set-ups at the level as well.