Amid rise in COVID 19 cases across country, states private and public hospitals have seen shortage of oxygen supply, failing to save their patients lives. Supreme Court has set up 12 medical experts National Force Task, to ensure and facilitate all medical essentials including drugs and allocation of live saving oxygen in all states and UTs.

The two judges bench – Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah – passed the order of establishing NFT to “commence work immediately” regarding determining the process of supply of oxygen promptly. The bench said the time span for the task force shall last for 6 months. The Force has to take steps in determining the “pressing issue” of modalities of oxygen in states, within a week, urged by the Apex court. The Central Government, agreed in formation of formal team of experts and will take decision on the recommendations of the task force.

The bench quote “It is necessary that an effective and transparent mechanism is set up within the Union government for the purpose of allocating medical oxygen to all states and UTs for being used during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Union Government has agreed to set up a National Task Force to streamline the process.” 

The members of the task force include Dr Bhabatosh Biswas, Former Vice-Chancellor, West Bengal University of Health Sciences, Kolkata; Dr. Devender Singh Rana, Chairperson, Board of Management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairperson and Executive Director, Narayana Healthcare, Bengaluru; Dr. Gagandeep Kang, Professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu; Dr J.V. Peter, Director, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu; Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairperson and Managing Director, Medanta Hospital and Heart Institute, Gurugram;

Dr. Rahul Pandit, Director, Critical Care Medicine and ICU, Fortis Hospital, Mulund (Mumbai, Maharashtra) and Kalyan (Maharashtra); Dr. Saumitra Rawat, Chairman & Head, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Dr. Shiv Kumar Sarin, Senior Professor and Head of Department of Hepatology, Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Science (ILBS), Delhi; Dr. Zarir F. Udwadia, Consultant Chest Physician, Hinduja Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital and Parsee General Hospital, Mumbai; Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (ex officio member); and the Convenor of the National Task Force, who shall also be a member, and shall be the Cabinet Secretary to the Union Government. When required, the Cabinet Secretary can nominate an officer not below the rank of Additional Secretary to depute for him/her.

Keeping in view the growing cases of infection, along with the grown immense demand for liquid medical oxygen and other essentials immensely, the court said the NTF can prepare for the possible third wave by projecting future requirements which can be scientifically mapped in the present.

The Task Force’s primary objective set out by the court includes to assess and recommend the availability and distribution of medical oxygen across the country, develop a technique for its equitable distribution, recommend ways to revamp the oxygen supply based on present and projected demands, facilitate audits on whether supply is reaching its destination in States, transparent distribution of available oxygen stocks, among others.

It has also ordered the formation of sub groups under the task force, comprising a Secretary to the State Government, an Additional/Joint Secretary to the Central government, two medical doctors in the State/UT, for oxygen audit in each state and UT.

The Apex Court also demanded oxygen audit of Delhi after forming a panel to be led by AIIMS Delhi director Dr Randeep Guleria.