It is needless to say that oxygen is the lifeblood of the human body. Medical oxygen is considered as an essential substance in the treatment of patients suffering from ailments ranging from pneumonia, heart failure, sleep apnea, asthma, lung disease, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and underdeveloped lungs in newborns to trauma to the respiratory system. Oxygen has proven to be equally crucial for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Those receiving supplemental oxygen in time revive to life back from the brink of fatality. Thus, oxygen demand has gone up rapidly during the pandemic, especially since the outbreak of the second wave. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over half a million COVID-19 patients in the low- and middle-income countries are now in need of oxygen treatment every day.
A huge amount of fund is required to meet the urgent need of the life-saving oxygen in medical facilities and even at home. It is sad to recall that hundreds of COVID-19 patients, if not thousands, have died in various hospitals and home isolations in Nepal owing to lack of medical oxygen after the resurge of the deadlier second wave in March this year. India also had to face the same problem. However, the situation in Nepal has now changed for the better, with a considerable fall in the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths. Many friendly nations and other donors have assisted Nepal by donating a lot of medical supplies, including oxygen concentrators and cylinders. This has enabled hospitals in the country to provide medical oxygen to such patients. The recovery rate among COVID-19 patients has also improved at a satisfactory level.
Besides, the government has come up with a policy of encouraging both public and private hospitals and other health institutions to establish their own oxygen plants to produce enough oxygen within the country. This will help address the shortage of oxygen in hospitals. Nepal is going to have the first-ever liquid oxygen plant in the near future. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has virtually laid the foundation stone of the much-needed plant in Simarhawa of Rupandehi district. Addressing the programme remotely from his official residence at Baluwatar on Sunday, Prime Minister Oli expressed his happiness over the initiative taken to set up the liquid oxygen plant at a time when the country was reeling from a scarcity of this life giving substance.
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. The crisis caused by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the government to initiate the process of establishing this plant. When the crisis was at its peak, Nepal had to buy or receive in grant oxygen cylinders from other countries. The Prime Minister revealed that the government had decided to open a liquid oxygen plant in the country after the oxygen produced by hospitals with more than 100 beds was not adequate to provide treatment to COVID-19 patients. The government aims to make the nation self-sufficient in medical oxygen by encouraging more investors to invest in oxygen plants. It will waive customs duty and provide other necessary support to the investors for installing oxygen plants and operating them successfully.