Oxygen supplies in the island hospitals have been in danger in the last four weeks, after a lack of electrical energy slowed down the production and distribution of this gas, which is the constant use in those institutions.
After Hurricane Maria had caused the collapse of the island´s power grid, Linde Gas and Praxair had to bring oxygen in barges from the port of Jacksonville, Florida, delaying the distribution at a time when there was a rise in demand, said the chief executive of the Hospitals Association, Jaime Plá.
"There is a lot of difficulty getting it. Until Tuesday night, we had (supplies) for eight days, "said Dr. Pedro Benitez, medical director of the Damas Hospital in Ponce.
The situation in other hospitals is even worse, assured Benítez. This weekend, at the Damas Hospital they received two patients connected to mechanical ventilators from another hospital that had been short of oxygen.
"All hospitals are more or less in the same conditions," he said.
Due to the high demand and distribution problems, Benítez said that suppliers are only filling the tanks up to 70% of capacity.
"We work with Praxair, which is importing (the supplies) by barge. They are supplying us, but not constantly. We have to be calling them, especially if we get several patients who need oxygen, "he said
At San Lucas Episcopal Hospital, also in Ponce, they activated a system to monitor oxygen levels four times a day. "As there is limited supply, from two to four days, it is being monitored," said Elyonel Pontón, the hospital's executive director.
In addition, the medical staff is maximizing the use of oxygen.
According to Dr. Jesús Cruz Correa, medical director of the hospital, other treatment alternatives are being followed, such as the use of compressed air in some cases.
Plá, of the Hospitals Association, informed that efforts were being made to energize the oxygen-producing companies, starting with Linde Gas in Guayanilla.
Distribution problems, so far, have not directly affected patients, said Anastasia Kitsul of the Oxygen Puerto Rico organization. She explained that oxygen suppliers do not sell directly to patients, but oxygen in cylinders for use in the home reaches individuals through hospitals and clinics.
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