Thursday, June 25, 2020

Scarce medical oxygen worldwide leaves many gasping for life


Medical workers offload cylinders of oxygen at the Donka public hospital where coronavirus patients are treated in Conakry, Guinea, on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Before the coronavirus crisis, the hospital in the capital was going through 20 oxygen cylinders a day. By May, the hospital was at 40 a day and rising, according to Dr. Billy Sivahera of the aid group Alliance for International Medical Action. Oxygen is the the facility's fastest-growing expense, and the daily deliveries of cylinders are taking their toll on budgets. (AP Photo/Youssouf Bah)

By Lori Hinnant, Carley Petesch and Boubacar Diallo

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) — Guinea’s best hope for coronavirus patients lies inside a neglected yellow shed on the grounds of its main hospital: an oxygen plant that has never been turned on.

The plant was part of a hospital renovation funded by international donors responding to the Ebola crisis in West Africa a few years ago. But the foreign technicians and supplies needed to complete the job can’t get in under Guinea’s coronavirus lockdowns — even though dozens of Chinese technicians came in on a charter flight last month to work at the country’s lucrative mines. Unlike many of Guinea’s public hospitals, the mines have a steady supply of oxygen.

As the coronavirus spreads, soaring demand for oxygen is bringing out a stark global truth: Even the right to breathe depends on money. In much of the world, oxygen is expensive and hard to get — a basic marker of inequality both between and within countries.  Read more >>