Telangana Health Minister accuses the Centre of being partial to BJP-ruled States in the allocation of Remdesivir

Published : April 23, 2021 13:43 IST

Telangana Minister for Health Eatala Rajendar during a press conference on April 18. Photo: The Hindu

With over 50,000 active COVID-19 cases and a daily spike of 1.4 per cent in the number of new infections during the week ending April 21, the Telangana government is on edge as it tries to battle the rampaging virus. The dashboard of the hospital beds status of the government says it all: as of 2 p.m. on April 22, all 616 ventilator beds at the government-run Gandhi Hospital were fully occupied.

This was confirmed by the Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender: “Today Gandhi [Hospital] has 1,100 beds—all are ICU, oxygen or ventilator beds. There are presently more than 600 patients in the ICU on a ventilator; for the first time in the State’s history, such a big percentage of patients are on a ventilator. The entire hospital has turned into an ICU.” The Minister admitted that some private hospitals were asking patients to source vials of Remdesivir and oxygen on their own, both of which were in short supply.

According to the Health Minister, what was making it worse for the State is the step-motherly treatment being handed out to Telangana by the Centre. Citing the Centre’s decision of April 21, when it said that the supply of Remdesivir, as with vaccines and oxygen, would be controlled by the Union government, Rajender charged the Centre of being partial to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled States such as Gujarat. He alleged that Gujarat was given 1.63 lakh vials of Remdesivir while Telangana was allocated just 21,551 vials of the drug for the period April 21 to 30, which was “highly insufficient”.

Said Rajender: “This is upsetting. Like Tamil Nadu says it is their oxygen and they won’t share, we can also say Remdesivir is manufactured here and so it’s ours and will not be sent out. But we are not doing that as the nation comes first. But allocation needs to be fair. Had the Centre given money earlier and ramped up production, we would not have been in this predicament.”

Rajender also said that it was the Telangana Chief Minister Chandrasekhar Rao who, having realised that the State was seeing an influx of COVID-19 positive patients from neighbouring States such as Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, had instructed the Health Department to order 4 lakh vials of Remdesivir. Said Rajender: “To avoid a shortfall of Remdesivir injections, we instantly placed an order for 4 lakh vials. We approached Hetro Drugs, Reddy Labs and other pharma companies manufacturing Remdesivir to scale up production. But now, however much the production of the drug is ramped up by the pharma companies within the State, the allocations are to be done by the Centre. The Centre needs to listen and respond to the needs States.”

Rajender disclosed that Telangana’s concerns have been raised with Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health. But so far, he said, there has been no clear response. Telangana is demanding that Remdesivir manufactured in the State should be fully allocated to the State.

Telangana is also facing a huge shortage of oxygen. The State is presently using between 260 to 270 metric tonnes of oxygen a day. It is getting the oxygen from Bellary, Vizag and the bulk from the Tata Steel plant in Kalinganagar, Odisha.

Said Rajender: “Our allocation is very little. Around 20 metric tons is from Bellary, and most of it is allocated from faraway places in Odisha. Kalinganagar is 1,300 km from Hyderabad and there are so many logistical challenges to transport medical oxygen from Odisha given the distance. It is difficult to get hold of oxygen tankers, which are not like the average petrol or diesel tankers and have to be specially built. Initially, Telangana was allocated oxygen from neighbouring Tamil Nadu. However, Tamil Nadu has said they will not send oxygen that the Union government has allocated. We asked Harsh Vardhan to allocate oxygen from closer places like Bellary, Vizag and Sriperumbudur. If this issue is not resolved, the Centre will have to bear responsibility if there is an oxygen shortage in the future.”