The second wave of COVID-19 created an oxygen crisis in India. The medical oxygen demand in India reached 2.3 million standard 7 mᶾ cylinders per day during May 2021. The massive spike in new cases led to a sudden surge in demand for oxygen and securing oxygen supplies and technical support became a near insurmountable challenge. Hospitals ran out of oxygen and the huge gap between demand and supply created an exorbitant price rise.
The inconsistent supply of medical oxygen that brought the healthcare system to its knees, shed light on the urgent need for a robust and reliable infrastructure to deliver medical oxygen to patients. And while most hospitals still rely on oxygen cylinders to meet daily needs (a system which we now know won’t survive in times of crisis), a better alternative has emerged - Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) systems.
As affordable and sustainable access to medical oxygen turned into a challenge in the midst of the crisis, PSA oxygen plants emerged as a trusted alternative. The Indian government announced the installation of 551 PSA plants across the country in April 2021 and soon, major public health facilities had PSA systems installed But despite the government’s endorsement, the overall healthcare system, including private hospitals, continue to shun away from this technology, citing several myths and misconceptions surrounding PSA plants. Let's talk about and bust the 5 biggest myths about PSA systems and delve deeper into cold, solid facts.
1) PSA Plants need to be handled by trained technicians
This is a misconception. Like any other equipment used in ICUs and critical care wards, PSA systems are easy to operate and don't require the hospital staff to be technically trained. Most popular models are actually just ‘plug and play’ and ensure hassle free functioning. The hospital staff only need to follow basic operational instructions, like they would for any specialized equipment and they’d be able to operate it seamlessly.
2) PSA plants are risky
They are not. Period.
On the contrary, PSA plants are a safer alternative to cylinder oxygen. India battled with oxygen transportation as opposed to oxygen generation during the pandemic. There are several risks associated with handling high-pressure cylinders and instances of fire breakouts in hospitals are enough evidence to understand the gravity of these risks. PSA systems equip hospitals with a captive plant to generate medical oxygen, thereby eliminating hazards involved in transporting oxygen cylinders and eliminating the risk of fire breakouts resulting from increased pressure on cylinders during peak demand. PSA plants not only offer a smarter solution for generating uninterrupted medical oxygen supply, they are also safer.
3) PSA plants are high maintenance
Like any other specialised medical equipment, PSA plants require routine maintenance every 6 months and the last time we checked, that cannot be classified as high maintenance. Captive oxygen generation plants such as PSA may require only basic repairs pertaining to filters and oil changes. It takes only a few days to get PSA plants up and running and the maintenance following the installation is minimal. There is no extra maintenance and upkeep that hospitals should be concerned about.
4) PSA systems consume a lot of space
As a matter of fact, limited space requirement is one of the biggest advantages of PSA systems. A PSA oxygen plant occupies a maximum area of 7x9x7 ft. Yes, that’s it.
High pressure cylinders require large storage spaces but PSA systems have a smaller footprint. While cryogenic plants occupy a lot of space in addition to high energy consumption, PSA systems produce oxygen from ambient air and serve as a reliable source of oxygen without necessitating structural changes or layout rearrangements in hospitals to accommodate the system. All one needs is a well ventilated space that offers access to environmental oxygen and that’s all! That’s a win-win situation if there ever was one.
5) It is a liability during low demand
Contrary to popular belief, PSA oxygen plants are not designed exclusively for pandemic-like situations but for enabling hospitals to become self-reliant when it comes to sustained and long term medical oxygen demands. This includes both, high and low demand curves, both of which can be matched, given the agile design of medical oxygen production. Based on the need, Hospital staff can easily turn up or turn down the medical oxygen production. Hospitals can leverage the plethora of customizations available and leverage the technology efficiently to keep up with fluctuating levels of demand.
Like with every new innovation that challenges the status quo, a myriad of myths about PSA systems are floating around. But again, like with every innovation, the end user needs to be well informed and educated about the benefits and use case scenarios associated
with the technology. The above is an attempt at doing just that! Liquid medical oxygen is cumbersome and potentially hazardous to transport and store, whereas PSA plants are safer, more compact and cost-efficient. With minimum logistical barriers and easy
installation, PSA plants are turnkey systems that ensure effortless access to pure medical oxygen. And perhaps, with industry wide adoption, they can play a huge role towards ensuring that we never face another oxygen crisis. Because there should never be a
shortage of a substance that every living organism needs to survive, every second; should it?