Central Bolivia desperate for medical oxygen amid third Covid wave

Cochabamba, Bolivia, Jun 1 (EFE).- Scenes of despair, concern and tears are seen at the doors of hospitals in the central Bolivian region of Cochabamba, hit hard by a Covid-19 third wave and where medical oxygen is scarce and health services are overwhelmed.

One of the places in a particularly critical situation is the Hospital del Norte in the department’s capital Cochabamba, where the arrival of oxygen gives momentary respite to staff and patients.

The health center, which is one of the benchmarks for treating the disease in that city, has activated a “red alert” because it was running out of oxygen, hospital director Cinthia Rojas told EFE on Tuesday.

“We have been given six tons of oxygen that will allow us to be calm approximately until Thursday,” she said.

Being a second-level hospital, this center has received most of the patients in the city, which made their “oxygen requirement much higher, much greater,” Rojas said.

The hospital has seven intensive care beds and another 12 intermediate care beds “that are already saturated for more than a month,” she said.

Added to this is a “gap of 312 officials” that it should have in order to function at its maximum capacity, Rojas added.

At the doors of the hospital there are people who wait for the arrival of oxygen for their admitted relatives, while others wait for a space to open up to receive care.

The picture is similar at the Benigno Sánchez Hospital in the neighboring city of Quillacollo, where relatives of the sick search for oxygen.

“My brother wants to live, he is desperate and is fighting right now, have mercy,” Isabel told EFE through tears.

She said that in addition to requiring oxygen, they are struggling to find the medications that her brother, a father to five children, requires and is even looking for them without success through relatives and friends who live in other regions.

“We do not have money. We are poor people, we cannot pay so many costs and they cannot profit from people’s health,” she said.

The lack of oxygen, the saturation of the hospitals and the shortage of medicines are consequences of the third wave ongoing in the country since May and that has particularly hit regions such as Cochabamba, which reported 915 new infections Monday and the eastern Santa Cruz, the largest in the country, 758.

The country has recorded 14,524 deaths and 371,279 cases since March 2020.

The Bolivian government announced that the first 20 tons of the 320 of medicinal oxygen acquired from Brazil are on the way and that the purchase of plants generating the input is being analyzed.

Vice Minister of Foreign Trade Benjamín Blanco said in a press conference that about 40 tons can be transported to Bolivia per week, so the first 20 are already on the way.

He also indicated that they are in meetings with representatives of Argentina to acquire medicinal oxygen and that a proposal was sent to the Bolivian Ministry of Health for the purchase of 13 portable oxygen generating plants.

These plants would be moved by ship and are expected to arrive in the country in one to two months, should their acquisition go through, Blanco said. EFE


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