New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) has constituted a 12-member National Task Force to streamline and ensure the “effective and transparent” allocation of liquid medical oxygen on a “scientific, rational and equitable basis” to States and Union Territories fighting COVID-19.
The Apex Court had expressed its dissatisfaction at the Centre’s earlier “oxygen-for-bed” formula. This “rough-and-ready” arrangement, as the Court put it, was based on calculating the allotment of oxygen based on the number of ICU/non-ICU beds. The Court, however, said the formula did not take into consideration the fact that many COVID-19 patients in dire need of oxygen do not get beds or were confined to home care.
A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, in a 24-page order released yesterday, said the formula should be scrapped and the problem of allocation of oxygen required to be looked into afresh. A new mechanism devised more scientifically should take care of present requirement for oxygen as well as be flexible enough to accommodate “unforeseen demands due to emergencies which may arise within the allocated territories.”
“We expect that the leading experts in the country shall associate with the work of the Task Force both as members and resource persons. This will facilitate a meeting of minds and the formulation of scientific strategies to deal with an unprecedented human crisis,” the Court explained.
Members include Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairperson and Executive Director, Narayana Healthcare, Bengaluru, Dr. Bhabatosh Biswas, former Vice-Chancellor of the West Bengal University of Health Sciences and Dr. Naresh Trehan, Chairperson and Managing Director of Gurgaon’s Medanta Hospital and Heart Institute. Two Members will be from the Government and a Cabinet Secretary will be the Convenor.
The Task Force is to start work immediately and has an initial life-span of six months. The Court urged the Task Force to take up and determine the “pressing issue” of the modalities of oxygen within a week. Public health institutions, Government facilities and Private Hospitals have to co-operate with the Task Force. It could form sub-groups of experts on a regional basis in the specialised areas of Infectious Disease Modelling, Critical Care, Clinical Virology/Immunology and Epidemiology/Public health.