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COVID-19: Nigeria Suffers Oxygen Crisis

The Federal Government has been warned on the need to address the shortage of oxygen in public hospitals following the second wave of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Chris Bode who gave the warning in an emergency press conference yesterday raised alarm over the shortage of oxygen, an important resource for keeping COVID-19 patients alive while on treatments.

He lamented the need for the Federal Government to address the issue especially in major hospitals as Nigeria’s major teaching hospitals like the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) reported severe shortage of Oxygen.

According to reports, those who required oxygen to treat COVID-19 cases were referred to private or other public institutions in the state.

A hospital official, who however spoke to newsmen on condition of anonymity said that oxygen was not something that could be purchased by private persons for use.

He said, “is that they don’t want to supply it; this is part of the challenge we face in treating COVID-19 infections. Most people don’t report this matter until they get to an alarming stage and that is when you will require oxygen to put the person in the ventilator. If people could take precautionary measures seriously, we would be able to overcome this development.”

He stated that the Oxygen plant at the UNTH could serve the needs of the entire Southeast zone, when put back to use, and called on the authorities, including the Enugu State Government to make the place work “in the interest of our people. ”

In a press conference, tagged ‘COVID-19 Wave: Public Alert By LUTH, yesterday in Lagos, the CMD of LUTH, Bode, warned that, unlike the first wave, the mutated form of the Coronavirus was deadlier and more easily transmitted.

According to Bode, “We want to let Nigerians know that it is not over until we are able to tame it. The resurgent mutated form could change form again and it is more easily transmitted from one person to the other and it is more vicious,” he said.

“We must let the public know that COVID-19 is still ravaging; so, we cannot sing hallelujah and think the battle is won and over. I was coming from home this morning (yesterday) and, on my way, I discovered that only one in 50 persons in Mushin was wearing a facemask. Going by our experience in the hospital, if we are not careful, it can easily overwhelm us. State facilities are filling up; we are almost running out of resources trying to combat the virus.”

“All patients in our ward got discharged, and we moved to a smaller centre, only to witness a rise in a number of patients afterwards, sicker than usual; we currently have 20 patients on admission and all of them are on oxygen and we are witnessing an increase in a number of deaths,” he said.

“Nigerians must shelve all forms of social engagements because many of the people in the wards had been to one social event or the other. Many of them are those people that enjoyed the yuletide in excess. So, (there should be) no party, church or mosque, Nigerians must tell themselves that it is better to stay alive. Nigerians must continue to maintain social distancing of at least six feet, and we must tell each person we meet to put on his or her nose mask. I sent a message to my dad, pastor and others not to visit me when I travelled home for Christmas; it’s a way to protect them and myself. So, if you love yourself and relations, stay away from them and let them also stay away from you.

“If you are feeling unwell, feel COVID; we must tell one another that there is no need to cover one’s self in a hot bucket, steaming with Gallic, Ginger and Lemon; it makes someone feel good, but it is not attacking the disease; and by the time our people come to the hospital a week later, the chest is already clogged up and damaged by COVID-19. Many who died have co-morbid factor. Imagine somebody having hypertension, diabetic, asthmatic or chronic disease and above the age of 60 but chooses to use steam inhalation for a week; the chest is already clogged, even when we are giving them 100 per cent oxygen at a very high rate, they cannot absorb it because the lung has been clogged, so, if anyone is feeling unwell, he should immediately consult a doctor early. We don’t want it to be too late before the patient comes.

“We are alerting the public on what is going on so that we can take adequate precautions. Just praying without doing the hard work of wearing masks, observing social distancing, shunning avoidable meetings, will be meaningless.

‘‘We’ve always had our oxygen plants in LUTH, which is a PPP project; several months ago, the machine was upgraded at our request, and we are now using more than 120 cylinders a day for all the patients. Our oxygen demand has overwhelmed the bigger plant. The patients in our wards require a high flow of oxygen and the cylinder finishes often. 20 out of 20 patients on admission need oxygen. So, it’s cheaper not to have the disease, it is cheaper to prevent it than to buy bigger oxygen machine; oxygen plants are not cheap, they have to be ordered, shipped, installed and tested.

“We are sounding this alarm because we don’t want to reach that point where the whole system will be overwhelmed, each person must do the needful.

“As long as a drug for COVID-19 is concerned, we are working with Science. Zinc and other forms of vitamins generally do boost the immunity of individuals and help them against all forms of viral infection, but they are not a specific medication for COVID. They don’t treat or cure COVID.”

He advised that Nigerians must continue to observe the COVID-19 safety guidelines which were publicized in the early period of the pandemic.