Corona Virus: Shortage of Oxygen Cylinders in Pakistan
What are some of the difficulties faced by patients due to rising demand and price?
The spread of Corona virus in Pakistan has now managed to expose the flaws of the health system.
With the spread of COVID-19 in Pakistan there is a shortage of protective equipment for medical staff and beds, ventilators, ICU wards and medicines for patients. The problem of oxygen shortage is also on the rise. The big hospitals in the big cities may not be short of oxygen.
With the exception of a few big cities, the hospitals in most of the cities in Pakistan are running out of oxygen for the patients.
Hospitals in Peshawar and Abbottabad, as well as districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have a central oxygen system. But hospitals in the remaining 36 districts of the province rely on oxygen cylinders. If these cylinders fall short, the patient’s life is in danger.
Here we mention a few districts of the province. According to officials, the situation is dire. In most districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there is a risk of shortage of oxygen cylinders due to the increase in corona virus patients in the hospitals. Authorities have asked the government to provide adequate oxygen cylinders to hospitals immediately.
Health officials refer to the demand for oxygen as an appetite or air hunger. They say that during a severe attack of the corona virus, the patient is in dire need of oxygen or artificial respiration. Failure to do so could result in death. COVID-19 or the novel Corona virus, as the name implies, is having an effect on the human body. Coronavirus patients in Pakistan have risen alarmingly. The fear is that more people may fall victim to it in the coming days. In Punjab, oxygen cylinders are being sold at three times the price. The number of critically ill patients is also increasing.
According to the Punjab government’s new strategy, patients with minor symptoms have quarantined themselves at home. Patients and their families complain that they do not get a place in the hospital in case of ill health, which forces them to take oxygen and medicine at home.
Talking to BBC, a Lahore resident said that he was treating his uncle at home. “When I needed oxygen, I bought a 13-liter oxygen cylinder for Rs 30,000.” Confirming this, Niaz Mohammad Khan, a dealer of an oxygen cylinder in Lahore, said, “It is true that at present the oxygen cylinder is being sold at three times the price. At the same time, there is a problem with its supply. Earlier we used to get supply within two days but now oxygen plants are supplying oxygen to most government hospitals,” he said.
During a severe attack of the corona virus, the patient is in dire need of oxygen or artificial respiration. Failure to do so could result in death.
And the reason is the increase in patients. As the number of patients increased, so did the supply of oxygen. He added that small private hospitals and those who are at home and receiving treatment are currently the most affected. He also said that the regulator attached to the front of the oxygen cylinder, through which the patient is given oxygen, was easily available in Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2000 . However, now its price has gone up from eight to nine thousand.
The Edhi Foundation, a Pakistani charity, also faces a shortage of oxygen gas. Faisal Edhi, head of the company, told BBC correspondent Riaz Sohail that the companies did not raise rates but reduced supply due to increased demand. “If we need fifty cylinders, twenty-five are being provided.”
He said that the prices of gas cylinders have also gone up. They buy used cylinders from the Sher Shah flea market, which are obtained by breaking ships at Gadani. They cost Rs 6,000 per cylinder while the prices of new cylinders in the market have increased many times over.
Conditions in Dera Ismail Khan
An official of the hospital administration from Mufti Mehmood Hospital Dera Ismail Khan said on condition of anonymity that the hospital had run out of oxygen late last night and at that time there were 15 to 20 patients in the hospital who were in dire need of oxygen.
The official said that when he then asked them to bring cylinders from the market, oxygen was not available in the market and the condition of the patients was critical at that time, after which some cylinders of oxygen were demanded from District Hospital Dera Ismail Khan. Later on they provided oxygen to awaiting patients.
Dr. Fawad Marwat, a focal person for the corona virus in Dera Ismail Khan, told the BBC that there were currently 20 beds in Mufti Mehmood Hospital that needed oxygen almost all the time. He said that at the moment they are providing oxygen to the patients but if more patients come, they may not have oxygen again. He wrote on social media that the number of corona virus patients is increasing in the district and at present all the beds are full of patients who need more oxygen cylinders. He said the affected patients were between 40 and 50 years old and their condition was critical. He told people to be careful and use masks.
Officials say that if the number of patients increases at this rate, the problem of oxygen deprivation may increase in the future.
Dr. Shah Jahan, former medical superintendent of Mufti Mehmood Hospital, told the BBC that the demand for oxygen cylinders had increased while its supply was limited in Dera Ismail Khan and if the number of patients continued to rise, it would be too much for medical staff to control.
Until a few days before Eid, the total number of Corona patients here was one hundred, which has now reached 290. These include Tank, South Waziristan and Kalachi. Until Eid, these areas were considered safe from the corona virus, but now the virus is spreading in these areas.
Swat: 300 cylinders empty in two hours
Health officials in Swat district say there are currently 85 patients being treated at the Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital, and the hospital empties 300 to 350 oxygen cylinders in an average of two hours. A few days ago, oxygen cylinders were also not available from Swat, Batkhela and Mardan, after which the district administration had contacted an oxygen supply company in Lahore, officials said. Then a container reached Swat but it took time to arrive. Officials say that if the number of patients increases at this rate, the problem of oxygen deprivation may increase in the future. He said that the solution was to install an oxygen plant on which work should start as soon as possible.
Demand for oxygen plant in Hangu
The medical superintendent of the district hospital in Hangu district has written a letter to the health department officials stating that the 110-bed hospital is reserved for patients of COVID 19. The needy patients are being supplied with oxygen through cylinders which is not a permanent solution. Therefore, orders should be issued for immediate installation of oxygen plant in the hospital. Health officials say it could take more than a month to install the oxygen plant, even at a very fast pace. He said that corona virus patients had started increasing in Pakistan in the last week of February but the federal government and the provincial government had not taken any steps in this regard.
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