At a time when hospitals across the country are facing a hard time due to oxygen crunch, Nepal-Korea Friendship Hospital, a municipal hospital operated by Madhyapur Thimi Municipality, has started producing oxygen by establishing its own oxygen plant.

The air-base oxygen plant established at a cost of Rs 6.5 million by MTM has already started supplying oxygen directly to the beds in the hospital where 41 COVID patients are undergoing treatment.

Of them, seven are on ventilator support, 14 are in high care unit, five are in critical care unit and 15 are receiving treatment in the emergency ward of the hospital.

The hospital had conducted a trial last night and generated 8,000-litres oxygen per hour from atmospheric air. The plant is being operated round-the-clock, and is expected to produce 192,000 litres of oxygen in a day.

The oxygen produced by the newly installed plant covers two-thirds of the need at the 102-bed hospital.

Earlier, there was demand of 90 oxygen cylinders a day at the hospital, but now the hospital has to manage only 30 cylinders from outside.

MTM Mayor Madan Sundar Shrestha said, "We know it's not enough production, but dependence on the government for oxygen has decreased significantly after establishing the plant."

This initiative of MTM has been lauded by everyone.

MTM Mayor Shrestha said they were able to establish the plant months after they had first felt the need for the hospital's own oxygen plant during the first wave of the virus last year.

"Last year, we had decided to establish our own oxygen plant and had immediately begun the process to acquire it from neighbouring China.

The plant was supposed to arrive in a month through air route. But, the plant was transported through the land route which caused delay in installing the plant,"

Shrestha added.

A team of three bio-medical engineers, three mechanical engineers and other workers had worked for 10 days to establish the stateof-art oxygen plant which is currently being used in countries such as China and Australia. The government had recently mandated all hospitals with above 100- bed capacity to operate their own oxygen plants.

Mayor Shrestha said that if the government facilitated import of the plant via air from China, it would need around 15 to 20 days to establish such a plant. He further said, "It is not late, if the government wishes to establish such oxygen plants, it should act immediately, as there is high possibility of a third wave of the virus hitting the country sooner than later."

Shrestha further said that the COVID-19 Crisis Management Committee, an apex government body for handling the COVID crisis in the country, should delegate more power to local governments for better handling of the crisis.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 16, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.