KARACHI: The prices of liquid oxygen cylinders needed for patients, particularly those suffering from Covid-19, have sharply increased in Karachi over the past weeks while hospitals, particularly in the interior of Sindh, are now facing a shortage of supplies.
It was reported on Tuesday evening that 15 more Covid-19 patients died overnight while 703 new cases emerged in the province.
Sources told Dawn that the lack of government oversight had encouraged oxygen producing companies to create a ‘fake gas shortage’ and increase its market prices.
They said the apathy of oxygen gas suppliers was recently highlighted in a letter written by the medical superintendent of the Liaquat University Hospital, Hyderabad/Jamshoro to the health secretary.
PMA asks govt to ensure sufficient supplies to hospitals at reasonable prices
The hospital was purchasing oxygen through local suppliers, who got the gas from four Karachi-based companies.
Price goes up to Rs1,500 from Rs900
According to the letter dated Sept 3, suppliers have informed the hospital administration that companies in Karachi are reluctant to supply liquid oxygen gas to hospitals because they are interested in sell the same to companies in Gadani.
“Due to this reluctance in oxygen supply to hospitals, we are facing an alarming situation,” the letter stated, pointing out that insufficient oxygen supplies might cost hundreds of lives under treatment at facilities of the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Science.
These facilities include five high-dependency Covid-19 units and intensive care units in Hyderabad and Jamshoro having the capacity of 106 patients, besides regular ICUs with a capacity to treat 34 patients, all dependent on oxygen supplies.
The sources said that a Rs900 liquid oxygen cylinder was now being sold at Rs1,500 in Karachi markets.
No government official was available for comments.
PMA seeks govt’s intervention
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) in a press release has called upon the Sindh government to ensure availability of oxygen supplies at ‘regulated prices’.
“Although the Covid-19 situation has improved with reduced patient burden on hospitals, the situation can change anytime. Oxygen therapy is very vital in treatment of Covid-19 as well as other patients. The PMA requests the government to ensure sufficient supplies of liquid oxygen to hospitals at reasonable prices,” the statement said.
It also said that suppliers were taking advantage of ‘gas shortage’ and increasing its prices.
Oxygen is used in a number of industries including metal refining, fabrication processes, glass manufacturing and chemicals. The country’s total production of oxygen is around 750 metric tons.
The federal government is, however, committed to divert most of the oxygen supplies towards the health sector in case of increase in requirement.
At present, over 500 metric tons of oxygen is going to the health sector compared to the consumption of 250 metric tons just a month ago.
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in a statement said that 15 more patients of Covid-19 lost their lives lifting the death toll to 7,192 in the province.
He said that 15,728 samples were tested and 703 new cases detected including 323 in Karachi.
He added that the condition of 599 patients was stated to be critical and 49 of them were shifted to ventilators.
Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021