Delay in setting up oxygen generators unfortunate

Almost a year has passed since the government decided to set up oxygen generators at different health facilities across the country to meet the oxygen needs of Covid-19 patients. Unfortunately, not a single one has been installed yet. According to a report by The Daily Star on February 12, the health minister in April last year revealed his ministry’s plan to set up small oxygen plants at hospitals and import the required machinery for this. The government at that time planned to procure 99 oxygen generators in phases: 40 with its own funds, 30 with the Asian Development Bank’s Covid-19 response assistance funds and 29 from the UN.

While there has not been much progress about the purchase of the ADB- and UN-funded generators, the status of the 40 generators purchased with the government’s own funds is also unclear. While some officials of the DGHS claimed to have installed a number of them at various hospitals, others said this was not accurate. According to a DGHS official, only a few hospitals received the necessary equipment for installing the oxygen generators. It is also very unfortunate that our health minister still has not signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UNOPS to get the 29 generators procured by them because the ministry has still not made a list of the facilities which would receive the generators.

The inefficiency of the health ministry in this regard is unacceptable, particularly at a time when the third wave of coronavirus has been claiming so many lives on a daily basis. With new infections of the Omicron variant rising, more and more patients needing oxygen and other support are getting admitted to hospitals. We wonder what will happen if the infection rates continue to rise like this. Will our hospitals be able to provide all patients the necessary oxygen support?

Setting up oxygen generators in our public medical colleges, district town hospitals and upazila hospitals is crucial. Once installed, they can provide uninterrupted oxygen supply to the critical Covid-19 patients for long hours. Also, compared to liquid oxygen supplied in tanks, the generators are much more efficient.

This delay in purchasing and installing the oxygen generators has once again exposed the inefficiency and lack of coordination among the different arms of the health sector. We hope the health ministry will learn from its past mistakes, take proper measures to treat Covid-19 patients and do the needful to set up the promised number of oxygen generators as soon as possible.

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