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Lack of oxygen in Guinea has COVID patients gasping for life

"Oxygen is one of the most important interventions, (but) it's in very short supply."

Poor countries are having to deal with a lethally short supply of oxygen during Coronavirus, in which a lot of patients are in high demand.

What We Know:

  • Right now, oxygen is in high demand for a lot of coronavirus patients, and for Europe and North America, it’s no problem getting oxygen tanks and pipe them directly to the patients’ beds. However, for poor countries, especially Guinea, it’s costly for patients to have the right to breathe.
  • Guinea’s Donka public hospital in the capital, Conakry, is having a difficult time with getting oxygen for their coronavirus patients. Their only hope was an oxygen plant that was created as part of the hospital’s renovation as a response to Ebola crisis in West Africa a few years ago.
  • But because of Guinea’s coronavirus lockdown, the foreigners who are needed to finish the job aren’t allowed in. But a month ago, Chinese technicians flew in to work at the country’s mines, which have a steadier supply of oxygen than the hospitals.
  • So, as a fix, a secondhand pickup truck hovers cylinders over potholed roads from Guinea’s sole source of medical-grade oxygen, which costs them about $115 each.
  • However, patients are still not receiving the amount of oxygen needed to stay alive. “Oxygen is one of the most important interventions, (but) it’s in very short supply,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC and current president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives said.
  • Patients with severe cases of COVID have low blood-oxygen levels, which is why only pure oxygen in large quantities can buy them the time needed to recover. But because of how scarce oxygen is in a lot of places, pulse oximeters used to measure blood-oxygen levels are even scarcer, which is why blue lips are a huge sign for lack of oxygen and indication that the patient is beyond saving.
  • Oxygen wasn’t added to the WHO’s list of essentials until British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recovered from the virus crediting his recovery to the National Health Serice and “liters and liters of oxygen”.

According to Dr. Theophile Goto Monemou of Sangaredi Community Hospital, patients are more likely to be sent somewhere else if they are in a strong need of oxygen. Guinea’s official coronavirus tally is almost 5,000 coronavirus cases and 27 deaths. The tally is an undercount as testing is limited.

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I am a third-year Journalism major at Florida A&M University (Go Rattlers!), I am originally from Fort Lauderdale, FL, and I am an Intern at BNA. I previously wrote for the FAMUAN, Journey Magazine, and Society19, and am grateful to be writing for BNA, an experience I love and appreciate. I grew up listening to all kinds of music but mainly Gospel, Country, and Rock. One thing I can promise readers, I will continue to work hard to get the information you want and need out.

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