The Financial Express

Crisis of oxygen cylinder

Published: June 10, 2020 21:32:30 | Updated: June 12, 2020 21:10:58

Crisis of oxygen cylinder

Now that the incidence of death from and infection of Covid-19 is on the rise, dedicated hospitals are stretched well beyond their capacities, so are the country's reliable facilities for supplying oxygen cylinders used to treat the critically ill. Sections of dishonest private suppliers and traders are, in cohort, taking undue advantage of this health emergency. Not only does the medical intervention of oxygen prove the ultimate recourse to saving lives of near terminal Covid-19 patients but many serious patients with other diseases also need oxygen support. Reports of ordeals patients - both Covid-19 and non-Covid - and their near and dear ones had to undergo before a number of those patients' death have prompted people to avoid hospitals as much as possible. In some cases, they were made to run from one hospital to another and by the time they knocked at the doors of five to seven such hospitals, the patients had dropped dead.

The healthcare system is already overwhelmed and more and more patients will be in need of the breathing aid as a last resort. Of course the best option is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, the most non-invasive ventilation, for patients treated in intensive care units. But in the device's absence, oxygen from hospitals' central supply system - where such facility is available - cylinder is used. Surely the refilled cylinders prove most cost-effective. A few government and private hospitals have such facilities and advantages of getting their cylinders refilled. But even those and others requiring manageable oxygen support in normal time are now finding it difficult to cope with the unprecedented demand on account of the pandemic.

Even the United Kingdom faced a crisis of oxygen cylinders and manufacture of the device on a massive scale suffered on account of shortage of engineers. The capacity of the private companies supplying or renting oxygen cylinders here should not be any better. Linde, previously called Bangladesh Oxygen Company, reportedly confirms such an apprehension as it claims that there was no dearth of oxygen but the sudden high demand has put pressure on cylinders. So, one way of tackling the situation may be to take a special measure for manufacture or import of cylinders or both urgently.

However, the cylinder-buying spree some people have embarked upon gives a most negative signal. Also, use of such cylinders without assistance from technologists in the field can prove dangerous. Patients whose lives are hanging on the balance will be deprived of the facility when they need it most. It is inhuman, no doubt. Some voluntary groups have appealed for either donating or selling used or empty oxygen cylinders so that they can refill those for helping the critical patients. When some traders are creating an artificial crisis of oxygen cylinders and oxymetres -- device that indicate the need for oxygen intervention and the proportion -- in order to make outrageous profit, these voluntary groups are busy doing all they can to help the ailing humanity. The former should learn a lesson from the latter.

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