Industry insider: No shortage of oxygen for Covid patients in NorMin

By : Bobby Lagsa Mindanao Today/10:54:51am 09/13/2021


NORTHERN Mindanao has no shortage of industrial gas and medical-grade oxygen which is being used in hospitals and treatment facilities for patients who have contracted the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), especially those who are in need of respirators, an industry insider said.

What is lacking, however, are the containers of the oxygen, said Innar Jeffrey Quiblat, marketing officer of the oxygen producer Cagayan de Oro Gas Corp.

Quiblat said manufacturers in the region can produce medical-grade oxygen as it has available raw materials, but they don’t have enough cylinders to store it as the demand for oxygen in hospitals, isolation centers, and even for personal use, have gone up in the past few months.

Oxygen is mostly produced in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental, Quiblat added.

Dr. Willaflor Kindom Brito, medical officer of the Department of Health-10’s infectious disease cluster, said they were told in a meeting with manufacturers and distributors of medical-grade oxygen that operators in the region could refill 7,000 cylinders per day as production output.

“Based on the meeting, we have a production capacity for medical grade oxygen of around 7,000 cylinders per day, that is enough to meet the demand in the region,” Brito said.

Dr. Ramon Moreno, chief of hospital of the city government-owned JR Borja General Hospital, said that they are now having a challenge in the delivery of oxygen tanks for the hospital.

“We have a daily requirement of 100 tanks per day, sometimes, the delivery is just 80 tanks, sometimes it is 100 tanks,” Moreno said.

He said that the JRBGH has 330 tanks in its inventory, “Today 139 tanks are being used, 120 tanks are in our buffer stocks,” Moreno said recently.

Moreno attributed the uneven distribution of oxygen tanks to JRBGH to suppliers equitably distributing their oxygen supplies to their other clients.

“For now, we can still give oxygen to our patients, we also factored into that the newly opened 40-beds Covid ward in the 3rd and 4th floors,” he said.

Dr. Ted Yu, city health medical officer, revealed that other regions are sourcing their oxygen supply from Northern Mindanao.

Yu said Caraga and BARMM regions are also getting their oxygen supplies from Northern Mindanao, taking as much as 7,000 cylinders for their use.

Increasing oxygen demand

Quiblat said that as the demand for oxygen in hospitals, isolation facilities, and in homes increases, the circulation of tanks decreases, as these are stored by their buyers.

He also factored in the increasing demand of oxygen supply of local government units in the region who are now looking at buying their own stocks for their isolation facilities.

“Now, many LGUs are buying and stocking their own oxygen supplies,” Quiblat said.

He added that their company has purchased 900 new cylinders in order to help stabilize their supply of oxygen in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental.

“We have doubled our production capacity for medical-grade oxygen from 300 cylinders per day to 640 per day, and as long as tanks arrive in our plant, we can refill it,” Quiblat said.

He said that some older oxygen producers could not deliver as fast as the modern plants.

“I think in Surigao and Butuan City, some oxygen plants there cannot produce as fast the modern plants we have here,” Quiblat said.

Tanks are properties of gas companies

Quiblat explained that tanks are the property of the manufacturing plants.

In Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental, there are four major oxygen manufacturers – Pryce Gas, Inc., Cagayan de Oro Gas Corporation, Linde Philippines, and Superior Gas and Equipment Co which supplies Northern Mindanao.

These companies own their oxygen cylinders, which carries their serial numbers and company logo.

“You can only swap an empty oxygen tank from your suppliers. Some old cylinders don’t have serial numbers, you can refill this in refilling plants, but not swap with a fresh tank,” Quiblat said.

He said that hospitals pay for deposits for the use of these oxygen tanks, and gas and oxygen companies will not swap their tanks from other companies.

Empty tanks will be refilled at their own refilling plants.

“Some hospitals have brought their own oxygen tanks too to supplement their own liquid oxygen productions,” Quiblat said.

“Liquid oxygen are those produced within the hospital, and piped through into wards, operating rooms, emergency rooms. It is the one you can see on the walls where they connect oxygen hose,” he added.

The only solution to the supply chain problem of medical grade oxygen is for companies to invest and buy new tanks, but as Quiblat revealed, the global price of oxygen tanks also rose in the last few months as the global demands rise.

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