May 02, 2021

Dear Minister Harshvardhan, is there anyone you can thank now?

S VENKATESAN, Member of Parliament of CPI(M) from Madurai has written to the union health minister, Harsha Vardhan questioning the country’s preparedness to handle the surging demand for medical oxygen in the country. He cited the example of his work in his constituency,  how he worked alongwith the district administration to ensure enough supply in his district.
He said, “last year, during the first wave of Covid-19, the country as a whole was facing an enormous crisis. At Madurai, we – myself, the district collector, the dean of Government Rajaji Hospital and the district special officer held discussions with a single focus -handling the pandemic.

The work was sped up and non-cooperative officers were removed from the district after complaining to the chief secretary. With the new officers, the first and foremost task assigned to them was to enhance the capacity of the oxygen. Rajaji Hospital had a 6,000-litre storage facility for liquid oxygen. This was only sufficient to provide for 400 beds. With the concerted efforts of the administration and others, they were able to increase the storage facility of liquid oxygen in Rajaji Hospital from 6,000 litres to 20,000 litres by July - August. This meant that an additional 700 beds could have access to oxygen. In total, the facility could provide 1,100 beds.

The hospital in Thopur had an oxygen cylinder mechanism that provided oxygen for 30 beds. A new facility was set up and an additional 130 beds were able to access oxygen.

Venkatesan said in the letter “It was not an easy road. We worked through a full lockdown. I am thankful to Dr Chandramohan and Dr Vinay for their commitment and dedication in bringing the resources and labour from companies in Pondicherry and Bengaluru. I extend my gratitude to them on behalf of the people of Madurai.”

“While the country suffers from an oxygen shortage, we are confident that Madurai will be able to handle the crisis. We owe this confidence to all the special work we had done during the first wave, and the people behind that work," S Ventakesan said.

Pointedly speaking out to the minister he said that when a city with a population of over 30 lakhs was able to augment its capacity of oxygen storage to almost four times all by itself, why could not the central government do it for the country with all the resources. “We did not beg anyone, steal anything or do anything else beyond our purview. We took into consideration the needs of the people, planned our work and put it into action. I take pride as a people’s representative in thanking all those who made it possible,” Ventakesan pointed out.