What is the unsafe use of oxygen

COVID-19: Insufficient supply of medical oxygen

In the report "Gasping For Air" published today, the international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emphasizes the importance of the supply of medical oxygen in the fight against COVID-19. With vaccines not yet available in most countries around the world, people will continue to develop COVID-19. An adequate supply of medical oxygen must therefore be invested immediately.

“Oxygen is the most important medicine for patients: inside with severe or critical COVID-19 disease. The supply of medical oxygen is often inadequate. The establishment of an infrastructure has been neglected for years in countries with low or middle incomes, ”emphasizes Marc Biot, head of operations at Doctors Without Borders at the Brussels operations center. “Even before the pandemic, we repeatedly had patients who were suffering from severe pneumonia, malaria or sepsis and who saw far too many premature babies die because there was too little oxygen available. But since the Corona outbreak, the shortage has been in focus. Insufficient oxygen supply kills. "

In the low-income countries where Doctors Without Borders hospitals and health centers often rely on unsafe and expensive supply chains for medical oxygen. While hospitals in rich nations have their own oxygen systems and can thus supply the hospital beds directly with highly concentrated oxygen, patients in low and middle income countries have to rely on bulky, expensive and quickly empty oxygen bottles or small oxygen concentrators that are available for patients not sufficient in critical condition.

"People come up short twice"

“People come up short twice,” says Marc Biot. "They are not only at the very end of the queue in the global vaccine supply, but also do not receive the best possible care if they contract Corona." A current example of this is the catastrophic situation in India. But the situation in the city of Aden in Yemen also shows the terrible consequences of a lack of medical oxygen. That from Doctors Without Borders supported hospital was over 100 percent in the last few days. 600 oxygen bottles were used per day. In the meantime, patients still had to be turned away because there was not enough oxygen available.

“The numbers are stabilizing again, but we have to assume that another wave will come and there will again be too many seriously ill patients: inside and too little oxygen. As a doctor, it is a catastrophe to see again and again that people cannot be treated due to a lack of medication, ”says Marc Biot.

Creative solutions for inadequate medical oxygen supply

Where the supply of medical oxygen is insufficient, the teams from Doctors Without Borders of creative solutions to ensure the urgent care of your patients. In South Africa, for example, several small oxygen concentrators, which individually would not be powerful enough to supply people seriously ill with COVID-19 with oxygen from the air, have been combined in order to increase their performance. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, oxygen bottles were connected and a central oxygen system was set up. Health workers are trained in the proper use of medical oxygen therapy.

“Time is a critical factor. The practical solutions that our teams use in action save lives, but they are not enough. More oxygen concentrators need to be made available, especially in rural areas where there are no oxygen facilities. The prices for medical oxygen have to be regulated and sufficient stocks and supply routes have to be set up so that health facilities receive reliable supplies, ”says Marc Biot. "The immediate supply of oxygen must be ensured, while the governments also solve the structural challenges so that patients no longer have to gasp for air."

Report "Gasping For Air" for download