Supplier urges Health Ministry to establish Covid-19 hospitals with piped oxygen

The Government has been urged to establish dedicated Covid-19 hospitals with piped oxygen connected to a bulk medical oxygen storage tank, The Morning newspaper reported today.

As the need for medical oxygen in hospitals treating Covid-19 patients increases, the country’s largest oxygen supplier Ceylon Oxygen Ltd. (COL) called on the Government to facilitate piped oxygen supplies connected to tanks instead of using oxygen cylinders.

Writing to the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena, the supplier of 60% of the local medical oxygen demand has proposed to the Government to establish dedicated Covid-19 hospitals with piped oxygen connected to a bulk medical oxygen storage tank, which, they claim, would ensure a continued, reliable supply to patients requiring high flow oxygen.

“Having bulk storage will put less strain on our logistics as we can transport a higher volume in liquid form, rather than in gaseous form in cylinders,” COL Managing Director Radesh Daluwatte said in the letter, according to The Morning.

Sri Lanka has sufficient manufacturing and distribution capacities that could, according to the estimates, provide three times the current demand for oxygen, the COL said, making proposals to the health authorities to minimise the disruption in medical supplies as seen in countries like India and Bangladesh at present.

“If there is good co-ordination amongst the oxygen manufacturers and the health authorities, we are confident that we can manage any surge in demand to a great extent.”

The COL also proposed to the Government to instead supply 10 imported oxygen storage tanks that were intended for hospitals that already have such bulk storage tanks, to hospitals that, they claim, are currently using oxygen cylinders as a primary source.

These hospitals are the Colombo South Teaching Hospital (CSTH) in Kalubowila, the Teldeniya Base Hospital, the General Hospital Kalutara, the Puttalam Base Hospital, the Chilaw Base Hospital, the Teaching Hospital Kurunegala, the Minuwangoda Base Hospital, the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, the Karawanella Base Hospital, and the Nawalapitiya Base Hospital.

They also proposed that special Covid-19 treatment hospitals be identified within a 200 kilometre radius to Colombo to ensure an efficient oxygen distribution, vaccinate frontline workers operating oxygen plants to ensure the continuous operation of oxygen plants, and regular updates of the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) capacities and high flow oxygen necessities in order for the supplier to be prepared for emergencies.

As oxygen shortages in the CSTH Kalubowila were reported yesterday, DGHS Dr. Asela Gunawardena denied claims of oxygen shortages faced in treating Covid-19 patients: “There is no shortage of oxygen required to provide treatment for Covid-19 patients.”

When inquired by The Morning, Ministry of Health Media Secretary Viraj Abeysinghe said that the Ministry is taking measures to provide high flow oxygen through piped systems: “Steps are being taken to set up high flow oxygen supply systems and in the meantime, there is no shortage in supplying oxygen to Covid-19 patients.”

The Morning reported that Multiple attempts to contact the Ministry of Health Medical Supplies Division Director Dr. Kapila Wickramanayake to inquire about their plans for the oxygen supply to hospitals under their purview proved futile. (Colombo Gazette)


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