Hospitals in critical need of oxygen tanks, manpower

by ASILA JALIL / pic by BERNAMA

OXYGEN tanks and medical manpower are two crucial elements needed in the country to hold together the healthcare system as it faces a surge in daily Covid-19 infections, which has surpassed the 10,000 mark on July 13.

According to a source at a government hospital in the Klang Valley, hospital workers are currently raising funds among themselves or depending on public donations to acquire more oxygen tanks.

“Five patients are sharing one 15-litre (15l) oxygen tank and when they share, a patient might only get 3l of oxygen or less, which is insufficient.

“As of now, my colleagues and I are collecting funds. We bought 20 tanks last week, so there is enough to rotate while some tanks get refilled,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) on condition of anonymity.

When asked if the staff had requested for more tanks from the management instead of solely depending on donations and fundraising, he said their pleas fell on deaf ears.

“The higher-ups said there is no such thing as a lack of supply. They even said there are many oxygen ports in the hospital and questioned why we needed oxygen tanks,” he added.

An oxygen port is usually placed next to a patient’s bed to provide them with oxygen supply via an oxygen mask.

However, the source said the wards are currently overflowing with patients and sometimes those that require oxygen supply are placed along corridors that do not have oxygen ports.

“That is why we need more oxygen tanks. Right now we solely depend on our funding or donation from the public,” he added.

A video of frontliners revealing the current situation at hospitals has been making rounds on social media as they claimed the healthcare system is on the verge of sinking with more cases being reported on the daily.

The video features only the frontliners’ voices, accompanied by captions, where several medical staff exposed information on how hospitals are low on oxygen tanks and were told off when they raised funds to obtain more supplies.

Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia’s Response and Relief Team (Imaret) chief coordinator Dr Ahmad Munawwar Helmi told TMR the number of patients admitted at Covid Assessment Centres (CACs) have been on the rise since last week.

He said more patients from Category 3 to Category 5 are being treated at the centres as of late, which calls for greater demand for oxygen tanks.

“Previously, 10 tanks were enough to accommodate the patients, but now more patients require oxygen, so we need more supply at the centres.

“Sometimes the patients need to share tanks because we want to fully optimise the ones that we have, while waiting for some tanks to be refilled.”

He explained it takes a whole day to refill the tanks once they run out of oxygen, therefore, they must constantly have additional supply on the ground to keep up with the rising need.

As a NGO, Imaret assists the Ministry of Health by donating oxygen tanks at high-traffic CACs as back-ups.

“The ministry does provide additional tanks when needed but the jump in the number of patients calls for more than what it provides,” Dr Ahmad Munawwar said.

Besides oxygen tanks, he underscores the need for more manpower at CACs, preferably those with medical background.

He said the existing medical volunteers have been on duty with little to no breaks, especially after the Klang Valley became a Covid-19 hotspot.

“The same volunteers are working day and night to tend to patients, but the number is still increasing. When we take in volunteers from nearby clinics, it will affect treatments for non-Covid patients in the area.

“As the Klang Valley is in a critical state now, I urge medical practitioners to help those in the Klang Valley and we can support each other to contain the pandemic.

“You can give us a lot of equipment but if the manpower is low, we will still collapse,” he added.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said there may never be enough oxygen tanks for Covid-19 patients as the country’s healthcare system is being overrun.

A surefire way to contain the spread of the virus is through vaccination, he said.

“The only way out of this is to ramp up vaccination for everyone. More field hospitals will need to be in place and staff mobilised.

“Efforts need to be focused on keeping the disease contained in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Negri Sembilan,” he told TMR.

Malaysia has been facing a spike in daily infections the past week following the spread of the deadlier Delta variant, which has an infectivity rate of 5 to 8 R0 value.

Health DG Tan Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah urged the public to avoid crowded places and wear double masks or face shields, given that the variant is airborne.