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Public Hospitals in Districts: Oxygen supply under stress

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Covid patient Josna Begum, 65, lies in an ambulance in front of Dhaka Medical College Hospital yesterday. Josna’s daughter is on a video call with the her brother, an expatriate in Qatar, to show him the condition of their ailing mother. A resident of Narsingdi, Josna was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems. Photo: Anisur Rahman

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Covid patient Josna Begum, 65, lies in an ambulance in front of Dhaka Medical College Hospital yesterday. Josna’s daughter is on a video call with the her brother, an expatriate in Qatar, to show him the condition of their ailing mother. A resident of Narsingdi, Josna was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems. Photo: Anisur Rahman

Medical oxygen supply to public hospitals in at least two divisions has come under severe strain as its demand doubled amid a surge in Covid patients requiring the life-saving gas over the past few weeks.

The crisis of high-flow oxygen support has turned grave at many hospitals in Khulna and Rajshahi divisions. Deaths of patients due to a lack of oxygen support were reported yesterday for the second consecutive day.

At least 13 patients died at two hospitals in Bogura in 24 hours till yesterday noon because of the shortage of high-flow oxygen support provided through a device called high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC).

The devices are meant for the patients whose oxygen saturation levels are very low. But many hospitals in the two divisions don’t have enough devices to treat the rising number of such patients infected with the virus. 

Of the 13 dead, seven died at Mohammad Ali Hospital and the rest at Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College Hospital (SZMCH), reports our Bogura correspondent.

Besides, at least 10 patients have been battling for their lives at Bogura Mohammad Ali Hospital where around 223 Covid patients were under treatment against its capacity of 250 beds, according to the officials.

The hospital has only two high-flow nasal cannula devices, according to Dr ATM Nuruzzaman Sonchoy, superintendent of the hospital.

“There are many patients requiring high-flow oxygen support. We are using over a hundred non-rebreather masks. But the elderly patients are suffering due to the shortage of high flow oxygen support,” Nuruzzaman told The Daily Star yesterday.

A non-rebreather mask is a medical device that helps provide a patient with oxygen in emergencies.

Abdul Wadud, deputy director at the SZMCH, said there were only 12 high-flow nasal cannulas at the hospital where 102 Covid patients were receiving treatment as of yesterday.

A day before, five Covid patients lost their lives at Satkhira Medical College Hospital following a disruption in oxygen supply. The supplier failed to refill the oxygen tank on time, causing a dip in gas pressure.

The surge in Covid infections and deaths over the past few weeks has overwhelmed the healthcare system in several divisions, draining supplies of medical oxygen, vital for critically ill patients.

Health officials said they do not have the capacity to treat every patient in dire need of high-flow oxygen support even if the number of nasal cannulas is increased, as the country is now facing a shortage of medical oxygen.

Officials at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said the oxygen supply at government hospitals rose to around 200 tonnes a day amid the rise in patients.

Around 100 tonnes of oxygen are required every day to ensure uninterrupted supply at all the government hospitals during normal time, but it shot up to 210 tonnes on Thursday, they said.

Ninety percent of the supply comes from Linde Bangladesh Ltd, a multinational company, while the rest is supplied by Islam Oxygen Ltd and Spectra Oxygen Ltd, they added.

“Till now, we have been able to meet the demand for oxygen. But the way the number of patients requiring oxygen is increasing every day, we will not be able to meet the demand,” Dr Farid Hossain Miah, director of hospitals and clinics at the DGHS, told The Daily Star yesterday.

“We have already sent six high-flow nasal cannulas to Bogura,” he added.

Contacted, Saiqa Mazed, spokesperson for Linde Bangladesh, said, “We are now supplying around 90-100 tonnes of liquid oxygen to the hospitals a day. This is our highest capacity.”

Fuelled by the contagious variant of Sars-Cov-2, known as the Delta variant, the Covid-19 crisis started deepening around two weeks ago. The number of infections and deaths kept rising.

According to a DGHS press release, 132 people died from Covid in 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday, taking the death toll to 14,778.

At least 8,483 new infections were recorded during the period.

The total number of infections stood at 930,042, added the release.

The Covid positivity rate was 28.27 percent yesterday while the overall positivity rate stood at 13.94 percent.



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