With Covid-19 cases soaring in Balochistan, the demand for oxygen has also increased significantly. However, oxygen supplies at government hospitals in the provincial capital Quetta are either inactive or insufficient because the government has not fulfilled prior financial commitments to private companies for these oxygen cylinders.
Most of the cases of coronavirus are being reported from just seven districts across the province, including the most populated Quetta, due to which the need for oxygen has also increased.
Oxygen supplies for Covid-19 patients at the Fatima Jinnah Hospital are inactive. However, the provincial authorities have issued a tender for a new oxygen plant for the facility. The oxygen plant at BMC Hospital is operating at minimum capacity despite the health emergency while the plants at the Sheikh Zayed Hospital and Civil Hospital, sourced from private companies, have low capacities.
Arrears of oxygen suppliers
The Balochistan government owes about Rs 25 million to private oxygen gas companies who have not been paid for eight months. According to Balochistan government spokesman Liaquat Shahwani, the arrears will be paid soon to reactivate the supply of oxygen cylinders for government hospitals.
Shahwani has denied that there is a shortage of oxygen cylinders at health facilities in the province, saying that there are only 26 patients on high oxygen. “Oxygen will be stored to avoid emergency situations. Two more oxygen plants have been activated,” he affirmed.
According to various private sector officials, the oxygen requirement at the Civil Hospital, the Fatima Jinnah Hospital, the Sheikh Zayed Hospital, and the BMC Hospital, as well as private facilities, has been increasing rapidly over the past few days.
The hospital management at the Fatima Jinnah Hospital says that oxygen requirements at the hospital are being met by private contractors. The same is the case for the Sandeman Hospital, where the oxygen plant capacity is low and most of the cylinders are being procured through private contractors.
The oxygen plant at the Sandeman Hospital has a maximum capacity of about 30 cylinders per day.
Demand for cylinders
An oxygen producer claims that the daily demand of oxygen cylinders at Civil Hospital has increased to more than 50. “At the Fatima Jinnah too, the need for oxygen cylinders has increased from 40 to 250-300. Fifteen private hospitals in the city are also being provided oxygen from 60 to 70 oxygen cylinders,” the oxygen producer says.
A private oxygen gas company facility located at Airport Road is facing difficulties in producing at maximum capacity because of prolonged power outages.
“Oxygen cylinders have been provided to different districts of Balochistan by the Balochistan Health Department,” Additional Director Logistics of Health Department Dr. Ghulam Murtaza said in an interview. He added that the responsibility of filling and delivering oxygen cylinders has been assigned to the Pakistan Disaster Management Authority.
“Oxygen cylinders have been provided to various districts of Balochistan, including 15 to Kila Saifullah, 10 to Pishin, 15 to Chaman, 15 to Nasirabad, 15 to Jaffarabad, 10 to Sibi, 1o to Kalat, 10 to Sorab, 10 to Uthal, 15 to Gwadar, and 15 to Panjgur,” Murtaza said.
“PDMA has filled the cylinders provided by the Balochistan Health Department with oxygen and sent them to all the districts,” Mustafa added. He says that the process of the supply of oxygen cylinders is being monitored effectively and a focal point has been set up at the DG Health Office to coordinate the distribution.
PDMA has also launched emergency measures to meet oxygen shortage in various districts of Balochistan.
“The purpose of sending oxygen cylinders is to ensure that no patient loses their precious life due to lack of oxygen,” Balochistan Home Minister Zia Langau says. He is of the opinion that the provincial government is taking all possible steps to deal effectively with the difficult situation and the capacity of hospitals in the province is being enhanced daily for the betterment of coronavirus patients.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2021.