Fri | Oct 22, 2021

Docs rebuff call for public oxygen level checks

Published:Friday | August 27, 2021 | 12:10 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


A call by Dr Roger Hunter for the use of pulse oximeters in all public spaces as part of the effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus has been deemed as unnecessary by two colleagues of the medical fraternity.

Dr Mike Mills, president of the Association of Consulting Physicians of Jamaica, and Dr Sherridene Lee, managing director of the St James-based I-Doc Concierge Wellness Services Limited, told The Gleaner yesterday that Hunter’s proposal, which was made during an online forum on Wednesday, was not practical.

Mills said that a pulse oximeter – a device that uses light beams to measure the body’s oxygen level – is only to be used by individuals under the advice of a physician.

People with respiratory illnesses can experience a drop in oxygen levels, which could prove fatal.

“It is not as if people are going to walk around checking their oxygen levels for no reason at all. That is something that is usually recommended by your physician once you have already been confirmed to have COVID. We would not see the benefit of churches, supermarkets, pharmacies, or other places having the device just sitting there because it is not like when you do hand-sanitising at the door,” said Mills.

“I do not think anyone would argue that there is a benefit to individuals having a home pulse oximeter to monitor the severity of COVID symptoms, but that is not something you want to measure in a public space to find out if someone is ill or not,” added Mills.

Arguing that pulse oximeters should be more affordable, Lee agreed that their use in public settings would be difficult to manage.

“That would be tricky because pulse oximeters are very sensitive. But not everybody can afford a pulse oximeter since most pharmacies will have it for $3,000 or $4,000,” she said, calling for subsidies or the removal of customs duty to make them more affordable.

During his address, Hunter suggested that a pulse oximeter should be more widely used.

“All public spaces, including churches, bars, and cinemas, must have a pulse oximeter. Insurance companies need to also align their compensation procedures that will facilitate doctors investing in pulse oximetry, and I call on the Government to remove all taxes and provide support for things like the pulse oximeter so everyone can have one,” he said.