Google.org has been a strong supporter of GiveIndia’s initiatives in the areas of humanitarian outreach and healthcare in the country. The latest grant by the tech giant’s philanthropic arm will help us to install and manage 80 Oxygen Generation Plants (OGPs) in tier-2 towns and rural areas of India with technical assistance from PATH India.
The pandemic has reinforced the stark reality of health facilities’ crucial need to access oxygen as essential medicine. With Google.org’s grant the focus will be on installing the OGPs in rural districts after a thorough assessment of where they are most needed. This will not just serve immediate needs but enhance the fragile healthcare infrastructure in India’s hinterlands.
“The second wave of the pandemic exposed the fault lines in our medical oxygen supply system, which is vital not just for Covid-19 patients but for patients having any serious respiratory illness. We are thankful to Google for their strong commitment to ensure we save as many preventable deaths as possible that happen due to lack of medical oxygen. Google’s grant to set up 80 oxygen generation plants (OGPs) will strengthen our healthcare system across locations with the highest potential impact,” said Atul Satija, Founder 2.0 and CEO of GiveIndia.
GiveIndia working with PATH India
PATH advises and partners with public institutions, businesses, grassroots groups, and investors to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges. The need for a sustained supply of oxygen in rural India is one of the immediate challenges that it will address in association with GiveIndia. With expertise in public health and government partnerships, PATH is well-placed to conduct feasibility studies for installation and usage of OGPs, identification of hospitals in tier-2 towns and rural geographies where there is a need for medical oxygen in the short and long-term.
From ensuring proper needs assessment and feasibility on the ground to allocating the OGPs and procuring them to their installation, GiveIndia will be responsible for end-to-end project management. It will also work closely with PATH to ensure that the most deserving geographies get priority.
Each OGP will have a lifespan of 20 years, and one 960 Litres-Per-Minute plant can serve close to 170 patients per day. Over 3,000 healthcare workers and hospital managers will be trained on oxygen use and maintenance of the plants. It is estimated that when the 80 OGPs are running at full capacity, they can benefit around 7,500 patients in a day.
Why do we need OGPs for oxygen?
The COVID-19 oxygen emergency affected many parts of India with demand surges outstripping supply several times over. Because of this, many preventable deaths occurred in both urban and rural areas. But it impacted rural areas more than urban India due to lack of access to oxygen at local and district levels. COVID-19 has been responsible for over 380,000 deaths in India so far. Many of these deaths, especially during the second wave, were because of a shortage of oxygen.
Studies have indicated that suppliers of cylinders and liquid oxygen often avoid delivering beyond 50 km from their oxygen plants or distribution centers. Even if they do, they charge high amounts, which could deter many hospitals in far-flung areas.
While oxygen shortage during COVID may have been a short-term occurrence, affordable and sustainable access to oxygen will be necessary at the primary and secondary healthcare centres in rural India. For instance, India had the second-highest number of deaths of children under the age of five in 2018 because of pneumonia, a curable and preventable disease. Oxygen is critical in serious cases of pneumonia.
Low blood oxygen, also known as hypoxemia, can cause serious complications in diseases such as pneumonia, malaria and sepsis. Many deaths can be prevented if the low blood O2 levels are detected at an early stage and medical oxygen is provided to such patients. Oxygen is also critical in several surgeries, premature birth and obstetric emergencies.
Disruption in oxygen supply is not an unknown phenomenon in India. This has resulted in tragic deaths even before. Moreover, it is a public health and moral imperative that all those in need of critical care get it irrespective of their geography.
How long does it take to set up OGPs?
OGPs using PSA (Pressure Swing Absorption) technology take relatively less space – around 700 square feet – than other forms of oxygen plants hence can be easily accommodated in hospital premises. PSA is also considered a ‘clean technology’ and the installation and commissioning can take place in a relatively short period of 60 days.
A PSA plant produces a continuous supply of pure oxygen and can be piped directly to patients’ bedsides, or stored in cylinders for other facilities.
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