Providing oxygen support to Covid-19 patients is essential since most of them are suffering from respiratory problems.
Health experts said only uninterrupted oxygen supply can save the lives of most such patients. But there is no central oxygen supply system in most coronavirus-dedicated hospitals. And the number of oxygen cylinders these hospitals have is also insufficient against a growing need.
There are 450 cylinders in Kurmitola General Hospital, 123 in Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Hospital, 155 in Sheikh Russel Gastro Liver Hospital, 245 in Mugda Medical College Hospital and 48 in Mohanagar Hospital, according to the health directorate.
Although Kurmitola General Hospital has a central oxygen supply for its intensive care unit, dialysis centre, operation theatre and post-operative centre, this facility is not available in its general wards.
There are 775 cylinders in Covid-19 hospitals in different districts under Dhaka division.
The hospitals designated for coronavirus patients in different divisions outside Dhaka also lack adequate oxygen supply. There are 437 cylinders in Chattogram division, 244 in Mymensingh division, 588 in Barishal division, 279 in Sylhet division, 412 in Rajshahi division, 578 in Khulna division and 30 in Rangpur division. Rangpur Shishu Hospital has a central oxygen supply system.
Health experts said around 82 percent of Covid-19 patients do not need any treatment. They recover only through staying in isolation. Some 15 percent of the remaining 18 percent of patients suffer from breathing problems and require a high flow of oxygen to stay alive.
Dr Fazle Rabbi, medicine and infectious diseases expert at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University said the high flow of oxygen through a central supply system is required to save coronavirus patients. If there is no central oxygen support, oxygen masks need to be available.
As oxygen in cylinders given to Covid-19 patients run out quicker, hospital staffers and nurses need to refill them again and again, which is a very difficult job for them as they have to wear personal protective equipment, he added.
Conditions for Covid-19 patients can turn serious in the absence of oxygen support, said a doctor at Mugda Medical College Hospital's intensive care unit.
"The patients in intensive care beds do not face problems with central oxygen support. But those in general wards suffer from no such facilities available," he told The Business Standard.
"The number of cylinders our hospital has is very insufficient. Conditions of patients deteriorate without oxygen," the physician said.
Health experts said Covid-19 patients need uninterrupted oxygen support as they mainly suffer from respiratory problems.
Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser to the World Health Organisation's Southeast Asia region, told the Business Standard, "Every bed in a Covid-19 hospital has to have oxygen support. The hospitals have to store liquid oxygen if they do not have central supply systems. Cylinders also need to be checked regularly to see if there is enough left or they have been refilled properly. Many patients will die if not given oxygen."
Dr Ayesha Akter, assistant director at the health directorate, said there are 14,000 oxygen cylinders in different hospitals of the country. The health authorities are working on increasing the number of cylinders in those hospitals gradually.