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Dhaka Tribune

Lack of oxygen, distribution equipment hamper Covid-19 treatment

NTAC team recommends immediate arrangement of advanced Oxygen Management System at hospitals

Update : 13 May 2020, 10:16 PM

Bangladesh has been struggling in treating coronavirus (Covid-19) patients due to a poor oxygen management system as well as a huge shortage of oxygen, together with problems related to a supply of equipment at public hospitals across the country. 

Moreover, providing treatment to coronavirus positive patients in the coming days will be more difficult as the number of infections has been increasing rapidly.

The situation will worsen if the government fails to increase the supply of oxygen and streamline the management system, according to recent findings by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

Hospital authorities, however, were struggling to manage an increasing number of patients even as they coped with the shortage of oxygen equipment, the DGHS added.

To analyze the situation, the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC), formed by the DGHS, visited some Covid-19 hospitals, including Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Kurmitola General Hospital, Bangladesh Kuwait Moitree Hospital and Mugdha Hospital in Dhaka on Tuesday.

The DGHS recently conducted such investigations in 57 public hospitals across the country to find out the capacity of the hospitals in treating coronavirus patients. 

Putting emphasis on oxygen supply, the DGHS is making plans to overcome the crisis immediately as oxygen is essential in treating Covid-19 infected patients.

“Although we have limitations in oxygen accessories, we will overcome the problem gradually,” said DGHS Additional Director General Prof Dr Nasima Sultana.

“We have already taken initiatives to make up the shortage,” she told this correspondent on Wednesday.

‘Supply of Oxygen to be ensured’

According to experts, respiratory problems are the main complication in coronavirus patients. Oxygen is thus essential in treating them.

So it is necessary to ensure supply of oxygen and related equipment to serve patients properly, they said.

“Oxygen is the main medicine for Covid-19 patients. We have a shortage of oxygen and supplying equipment, going back to before the pandemic situation occurred. Now it is a big crisis,” said Prof Khalilur Rahman, a member of the NTAC.

“The government is trying to manage the situation accordingly, but most of the equipment usually is imported from different foreign countries, which is barely possible right now,” he said. 

The DGHS report also mentioned that the district hospitals selected for Covid-19 treatment mostly had to struggle in managing oxygen.

According to the report, there are oxygen tubes in 57 hospitals of the country, and two-third of hospitals have pulse oximeters.

All district hospitals have oxygen cylinders but only 10% have oxygen concentrators. 53% of the hospitals have nasal canola and only 14% hospitals have mechanical ventilators.

Apart from these, among the 57 hospitals, 16 district hospitals do not have a single pulse oxygen machine at any of their departments. Only six hospitals have pulse oximeters at their outdoor departments. Similarly, the pediatric departments of nine hospitals, general departments of five hospitals, operation theaters at 31 hospitals and ICUs at three hospitals have pulse oxygen meters. 

According to the report, there are 48 hospitals with humidifiers, four with CPAP and only 3 with BPAP. There are also endotracheal tubes in 33 hospitals.

A Pulse Oximetre is used for measuring oxygen shortage in the human body; an AGB machine can ensure the supply of oxygen in the human body. A canola connects the oxygen cylinder and facemask. Humidifiers usually remove moisture from the air in an air-conditioned room to prevent other patients from getting germs.

Similarly, in case of breathing problems, a BiPAP machine can help push air into the lungs. For instance, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) delivers the same support to the lungs.

To analyze the situation, a team of NTAC visited four hospitals in Dhaka on Tuesday.

“A poor oxygen management system mostly hampers the treatment process,” said Prof Dr. Iqbal Arslan, president of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad and also a member of NTAC.

Therefore, the arrangement of oxygen management systems was a must to improve the situation immediately, he added.

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