Covid-19 pandemic

SC forms National Task Force to streamline oxygen allocation

Tenure of 12-member NTF shall be six months initially

SC forms National Task Force to streamline oxygen allocation

A family member of a COVID-19 patient carries oxygen cylinder from an oxygen filling centre in New Delhi, on Saturday, May 8, 2021. PTI

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 8

Amid wrangling over oxygen supply to hospitals, the Supreme Court has set up a 12-member National Task Force (NTF) to streamline allocation to the life-saving gas to various states and Union territories.

Consisting of top medical experts, the NTF will formulate a methodology for allocation of oxygen and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic that has seen a sudden spike in number of infections in its second wave across India.

Asking the NTF to “commence work immediately” taking up the pressing issue of determining the modalities for oxygen expeditiously within a week, the Bench said it shall submit its recommendations from time to time. The tenure of the Task Force shall be six months initially, it said.

The court made 12-point terms of reference which included assessing and making recommendations for the entire country based on the need for, availability and distribution of medical oxygen and to facilitate auditing by sub-groups within each state/UT.

According to an order passed by a Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah, the Union Cabinet Secretary will be the NTF convener and the Union Health Secretary its ex-officio member. The Cabinet Secretary may nominate an officer not below the rank of Additional Secretary to deputise for him, when necessary, it added. 


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Other members of the NTF included Bhabatosh Biswas, former Vice Chancellor, West Bengal University of Health Sciences, Kolkata; Devender Singh Rana, Chairperson, Board of Management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairperson and Executive Director, Narayana Healthcare, Bengaluru; Gagandeep Kang, Professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu; and JV Peter, Director, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu.

The rest five members were Naresh Trehan, Chairperson and Managing Director, Medanta Hospital and Heart Institute, Gurugram; Rahul Pandit, Director, Critical Care Medicine and ICU, Fortis Hospital, Mulund (Mumbai, Maharashtra) and Kalyan (Maharashtra); and Dr Saumitra Rawat, Chairman & Head, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Shiv Kumar Sarin of Institute of Liver and Biliary Science (ILBS), Delhi; and Zarir F Udwadia of Hinduja Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital Mumbai.

It also set up a sub-group for carrying out the audit exercise for Delhi’s health infrastructure and allocation of oxygen. The sub-group consisted of Randeep Guleria (AIIMS), Sandeep Budhiraja (Max Healthcare) and two IAS officers not below the rank of Joint Secretary—one each from the Centre and Delhi government.

The court, however, said, the Centre shall continue with the present practice of making allocations of oxygen until the Task Force has submitted its recommendations in regard to proposed modalities. 

On receipt of the recommendations of NTF, the Centre shall take an appropriate decision in regard to the allocation of oxygen and on all other recommendations, it said.

The order comes after days of public spat between the Centre and Delhi Government over allocation of medical oxygen and death of several COVID19 patients due to shortage of the life-saving gas.

“We expect that the leading experts in the country shall associate with the work of the Task Force both as members and resource persons” as this will facilitate a meeting of minds and the formulation of scientific strategies to deal with an unprecedented human crisis,” the Bench said in its order published on Saturday.

It said the STF will enable the decision makers to have inputs which go beyond finding ad-hoc solutions to the present problems, adding this will ensure that projected future requirements can be scientifically mapped in the present and may be modulated in the light of experiences gained.

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