As more private hospitals in the country have started turning away COVID patients citing acute shortage of oxygen, the government today decided to ask private hospitals to instal their own oxygen plants to meet the need of oxygen within 15 days.

As per the government decision, all private hospitals with more than 100 beds will have to install their own oxygen plant and the government will provide the necessary support for this purpose. The Ministry of Health and Population, issuing the order, said it was the responsibility of all the hospitals to set up their own oxygen plants. "Since many private hospitals have not done so, we will help them set up the plant to meet the increasing demand of oxygen for COVID patients," said Dr Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson for the ministry.

Gautam further said that after setting up the plants, the hospitals could also manage a system to supply the oxygen directly to hospital beds.

As of today, at least 10 large private hospitals in the country have already said that they cannot admit new COVID patients due to oxygen crunch.

The government has estimated that around 15,000 oxygen cylinders are required to meet the current demand for oxygen.

In contrast to the demand, there are only around 8,000 oxygen cylinders in the country.

Similarly, the government, which had earlier claimed it was producing enough oxygen in the country, retracted its claim today.

Some government hospitals in the valley today said that they no longer had oxygen supply to treat COVID patients, but they had enough cylinders to fill oxygen.

Most of the government hospitals in the country have their own oxygen plants, but their production is too less to meet the current need.

COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre, an apex government body for dealing with the pandemic, during today's meeting, pointed out that the country might need 50,000 oxygen cylinders by July-end.

The government has recently fixed quantity of oxygen to be supplied to hospitals each day on the basis of the hospital's bed capacity. As per the recent government decision, 59 hospitals in Kathmandu valley can get oxygen from six oxygen plants in the valley. Of them, Bir Hospital is receiving 300 oxygen cylinders per day.

Many hospitals have been urging the government to increase the oxygen quota considering the increasing number of COVID patients in hospitals.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 13, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.