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Health Ministry draws up plan providing oxygen support for 300,000 Covid cases

By Minh Duy

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HCMC – The Ministry of Health has worked out plans to purchase more equipment for the oxygen support system to prepare for a scenario of 300,000 Covid cases and convert industrial oxygen cylinders into medical ones.

The plans are part of a scheme recently approved by the ministry to enhance the capacity to supply and use medical oxygen for Covid treatment facilities.

The ministry cited a report of the Vietnam Gas Association as saying that the association’s members can churn out a total of 1,115 tons of oxygen per day under normal conditions. The output can reach some 1,430 tons per day if they operate at full capacity.

The above-mentioned volume excludes the amount of oxygen for industrial use that is usually higher than medical oxygen and can be converted into medical oxygen in case of emergency.

Regarding measures to convert industrial oxygen into medical oxygen, the ministry said that the standards set for industrial oxygen are similar to those of medical oxygen as they are both produced using the same technology and equipment.

However, some plants only directly produce oxygen transmitted through pipes to be used for smelting steel ingots. The number of industrial gas cylinders remains relatively huge and could be converted into medical oxygen cylinders.

Through the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the national health authority asked steelmakers and industrial gas manufacturers to provide information about the maximum volume of oxygen they can supply and to start supplying oxygen for the health sector upon request.

They were also told to coordinate with the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs to issue guidelines on the conversion of industrial gas cylinders into medical oxygen ones to increase the number of medical oxygen cylinders, if necessary.

The Health Ministry added that the country has reported 480,000 Covid cases in the latest outbreak since late April. The numbers of critically-ill cases and deaths remain high. As of now, there have been 13,000 Covid deaths.

The country has over 16,000 ICU beds but the number of beds and the intensive care unit capacity of the local health system have yet to meet the demand for Covid treatment. Further, many provinces in the country are facing a shortfall of medical equipment to treat severely ill patients. Lots of hospitals have ICU beds but cannot use ventilators due to the shortcomings of the central oxygen system.

The ministry said that the production and supply of medical oxygen are facing obstacles, as many provinces and cities are enforcing the stay-at-home mandate, adding that workers have not been vaccinated against Covid to help continue operations.

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