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Oxygen shortages are killing thousands. Why aren’t we doing more about this? | Charlotte Summers

As with vaccines and drugs, the pandemic has shown how access to this life-saving resource is deeply unequal

  • Dr Charlotte Summers is a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge

The basics of caring for acutely unwell patients are simple: air needs to go in and out and blood needs to go round and round. Across the world, the pandemic has consistently shown how poorly equipped healthcare systems are for addressing these needs. Much attention has been paid to vaccines, drug therapies and ventilators in recent months, while relatively little has been said about the most basic human requirement of all – oxygen.

Oxygen is all around us, and yet there are acute shortages of it in many healthcare settings. This is because the infrastructure needed to supply oxygen to patients, such as large vacuum-insulated evaporators (which are like giant, very cold vacuum flasks), is relatively expensive and needs regular maintenance and top-ups of liquid oxygen. Where this isn’t available, hospitals might use concentrators that extract oxygen from the surrounding environment. These require electricity and compressed air – which, again, are scarce in many places. Or they might use cylinders, which can store and deliver short-term oxygen therapy. But they need regularly refilling, which depends on secure supply lines.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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