National Task Force for Transparent Oxygen Allocation


The supreme court has constituted a National Task Force for transparent oxygen allocation. It is a 12 member body constituted to guide the central government allocation of medical oxygen to the states. Further, it will also recommend a framework for broader pandemic preparedness and response.

  • The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has crippled the healthcare system in India.
  • The situation is worse in the domain of oxygen supply. Due to acute shortages, the toll of preventable deaths has increased.
  • In this scenario, the supreme court has set up a National Task Force for transparent oxygen allocation.

About the National Task Force for transparent oxygen allocation:

  • It is a 12 member body constituted to guide the central government’s allocation of medical oxygen to the states.
  • It has 10 members who are leading clinicians, critical care specialists, and virologists. Along with this, there are 2 government officials – Secretary, Ministry of Health, and Cabinet Secretary.
  • It is established for a period of six months.
Working and Mandate of Task Force:
  • It will work as per its 12 point terms of reference.
  • The first five points focus on oxygen supply. This includes: 
    • Deciding on a methodology for the scientific allocation of oxygen to states
    • Facilitating audits (of oxygen supply, distribution, and utilization) by sub-groups within each state and UTs.
  • The 6th point allows it to review and suggest measures necessary for ensuring the availability of essential drugs and medicines.
  • The remaining 6 points are aimed at the broader pandemic preparedness and response. This includes planning and adopting remedial measures:
    • To ensure preparedness for present and future emergencies; 
    • To facilitate the use of technology; 
    • Furthermore, to suggest augmenting the availability of trained doctors, nurses, and paramedical staff; 
    • Also, to promote evidence-based research and enhance effective response to the pandemic; 
    • To facilitate sharing of best practices across the nation to promote knowledge about management of the pandemic
    • Lastly, to make recommendations in regard to other issues of pressing national concerns. 
  • It can constitute more sub-groups in specialized areas or regions to assist in its work.
  • It can seek assistance from experts both within and outside government in areas such as clinical virology and immunology, epidemiology/ public health, etc.
Benefits of Creating such a task force:
  • Firstly, it will facilitate a public health response to the pandemic based upon scientific and specialized domain knowledge.
  • Secondly, it will give inputs to decision-makers. These inputs will enable them to go beyond ad hoc solutions to unprecedented challenges.
  • Thirdly, it will alter the techno-bureaucratic nature of policy decisions by ensuring the participation of independent subject experts.
  • Fourthly, it will give suggestions to improve state-level public healthcare systems. As it looks at the shortage of medical oxygen through a broader lens of pandemic preparedness and response. 
    • The state-level health care system currently has:
      • Insufficient planning, delayed procurement, and weakness of supply chain management.
      • Insufficient government funding
      • absence of sufficient and trained human resources
      • high out-of-pocket expenditure (around 30-40%)
Way Forward:
  • The members of NTF have the needed qualification and expertise to advise on clinical matters and oxygen supply. However, they may need to proactively co-opt experts from other fields for giving suggestions on broad issues in a short time. This involves experts from medical procurement and supply; pharmacology, free medicines, and diagnostics, etc. 
  • Further, the task force should refrain from giving a mere medicalized response to a public health challenge. The focus should be on creating a healthcare system that can keep people healthy and respond to future epidemics and pandemics.

Source: Indian Express


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