Mon | Dec 11, 2023

IGL: Ministry yet to respond to oxygen needs request

Published:Thursday | September 2, 2021 | 12:13 AM
A hospital worker moves an oxygen cylinder that was among several delivered to Cornwall Regional in Montego Bay on August 30.
A hospital worker moves an oxygen cylinder that was among several delivered to Cornwall Regional in Montego Bay on August 30.

IGL Limited has said that the Ministry of Health and Wellness is yet to respond to repeated requests for forecasts of requirements for medical oxygen in the public-health sector as the island battles the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The company raised the issue publicly weeks ago, but up to yesterday, it had still not heard from the authorities.

The revelation comes as the island was shocked last weekend when news surfaced that several hospitals had exhausted their supplies of the gas needed for the treatment of COVID-19 patients experiencing respiratory distress. The crisis has been widely blamed for a number of hospital deaths on the weekend.

Several medical practitioners also raised concern that the situation would also affect their ability to perform surgeries as well as other patients, including premature babies, who required ventilation.

In a release last night, IGL – the island’s sole supplier of medical-grade oxygen – also noted that it only has a contract to supply the gas to one of the island’s four regional authorities.

“Despite current contracts not being in place – except with one of the regional health authorities, which requested and was granted a six-month extension – IGL, despite numerous efforts for years prior to the onset of the pandemic, was not successful in having other contracts put in place,” the company said.

The oxygen crisis began to escalate last Saturday amid a surge in hospitalisations, largely due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, and comes after a similar situation in March of this year.

IGL said that the unprecedented demand meant that its local oxygen-producing plant could not keep up with the demand, and many countries restricted exports.

“Our workers have been on the front line producing and delivering oxygen, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Managing Director Peter Graham. “Right now, we are supplying up to three and four times the normal requirement, with a combination of local production and imported product.”

Graham said that notwithstanding the circumstances, and although IGL has been able to forge new relationships with alternative sources to secure shipments, “there will be need for even more supplies, and here is where the Government and its external relationships are now critical” as the demand is expected to increase further.