Punjab, Haryana wait for oxygen plants promised by Centre

Just as in Delhi, a political slugfest has started in the states over delays in installation of plants

Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said 'we don’t have to play with the data' of COVID-19 deaths

Not only Delhi, oxygen plants to be set up in Punjab and Haryana using PM CARES funds are yet to start functioning.

The Centre announced the installation of nine oxygen plants in Punjab and Haryana in October last year, but only one is functioning so far.

In Delhi, which is reeling under a brutal second wave of COVID-19, the state government has come in for criticism from the Centre for failing to use the funds allocated to it for building eight Pressure Swing Adoption (PSA) oxygen plants. The Delhi government, however, says the Centre did not allocate any funds to states; it is the Union health ministry that commissioned a vendor to install the plants, who later backed out.

Also read: HC raps Delhi govt for inaction and orders them to take over an oxygen plant

The situation in Punjab and Haryana is similar. In October last year, the Central Medical Services Society under the Union health ministry invited bids for the installation of 162 PSA oxygen plants across 14 states at a cost of nearly 200 crore. The funds were to come entirely from PM Cares.

Out of these 162 oxygen plants, eight were to be set in Delhi, six in Haryana and three in Punjab. After the bidding process, the ministry gave the installation work to selected vendors.

Only one out of eight plants was subsequently set up in Delhi. In Punjab as well only one out of three was installed. The three plants were to be installed at government medical colleges in Faridkot, Patiala and Amritsar. The plant at the Faridkot became functional last month.

Tanu Kashyap, MD, Punjab Health Systems Corporation, said that they had submitted a site preparation certificate to the Centre on December 31 last year. “We were told the vendor who was allotted the contract had backed out and that government agencies would do the needful,” she told the Chandigarh Tribune newspaper.

Still worse, none of the plants announced for Haryana — in Faridabad, Hisar, Karnal, Ambala, Sonepat and Panchkula — are functional. Machinery for the plants has already been supplied, but the company responsible for the installation is to be blamed for the delay, said Hisar Deputy Commissioner Priyanka Soni.

Dr Piyush Sharma, Principal Medical Officer, Karnal Civil Hospital, told The Tribune that the hospital authorities had provided the site for the plant in January and the machinery too had arrived in February. “However, to date, we have no information when the engineers of the company will arrive for the installation work,” Dr Sharma said.

Thirteen COVID-19 patients have died in three hospitals in Haryana in the recent past due to a shortage of oxygen. Four died at Virat Hospital in Rewari; four succumbed to the virus at Kathuria Hospital in Gurugram; another five patients, including one from Delhi, died at Soni Burn hospital in Hisar.

In Punjab six patients died at a private hospital in Amritsar.

On Tuesday Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said “we don’t have to play with the data” of COVID-19 deaths. “A person who has died is not going to be alive again because of the furore created by us,” he said.

However, Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij assured that the plants will soon be functional. “I have been informed that merely inspection by a central team is pending. That done, the plants will become functional,” he said.

“At the time when we needed to improve our healthcare system, Modi and his government were busy claiming victory over COVID-19 pandemic. Despite several warnings that the second wave will come, they didn’t listen and continued with gatherings like elections and Kumbh,” said Anju Sharma, a public health expert in Delhi.