A mobile oxygen production vehicle by the military was deployed to help HCM City during the COVID-19 outbreak in August. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Khu
HÀ NỘI — Deputy health minister Trần Văn Thuấn said Việt Nam’s medical oxygen supply capacity is sufficient to cope with COVID-19 demands amid escalating outbreaks in many areas of the country.
During a conference on a nationwide survey on medical oxygen and respiratory care equipment for the treatment of COVID-19 patients held on Tuesday, Thuấn said if the pandemic worsens in Việt Nam, manufacturers of industrial use oxygen may be converting to producing medical oxygen instead.
He stressed the importance of oxygen therapy in the treatment of COVID-19 aside from the use of drugs that help inhibit the virus propagation or some specific medicines.
Studies around the world have shown that over 60 per cent of severe COVID-19 cases had to rely on oxygen therapy for breathing during hospitalisation, Thuấn noted.
However, in the past two years since the pandemic broke out, many countries have experienced healthcare ‘disasters’ due to a lack of oxygen supply and related equipment such as a shortage of oxygen tanks, or assistive respiratory devices/equipment when outbreaks exacerbate, he said, adding that Việt Nam should be more proactive and prepared to avoid this sad reality and reduce mortality from hypoxia.
"Keeping in mind that the pandemic might go on for a lot longer with potentially complicated and unpredictable developments due to the emergence of new strains of SARS-CoV-2, in order to proactively prepare oxygen and related medical equipment, the Ministry of Health has established two working groups on medical oxygen and ventilator coordination to respond properly to public health emergency needs and treatment of COVID-19 patients," Thuấn told the participants.
The Ministry of Health has also actively worked with suppliers of oxygen and respiratory equipment to put in place necessary preparations to deal with various levels of coronavirus outbreaks in the near future.
In addition, the Ministry of Health has coordinated with PATH in Viet Nam to conduct a survey on the current status of medical oxygen and respiratory care and treatment equipment for COVID-19 patients at hospitals across the country.
The survey of 993 medical facilities nationwide helps provide evidence for the health ministry about the supply of medical equipment and oxygen, to implement the project on strengthening the supply and use of medical oxygen in healthcare facilities for COVID-19 treatment and have appropriate and effective plans for the procurement and allocation of respiratory care and treatment equipment for COVID-19 patients at units and localities.
This survey also shows that there are not enough human resources for emergency services. In addition, there is a gap at the district level, a large gap between the number of emergency beds and accompanying medical equipment.
Currently, the total liquid oxygen production capacity of factories in our country is about 1,200 cu.m a day (or about 1,400 tonnes), equivalent to or higher than the output of developing countries in the region such as India or Indonesia, but lower than the developed world like the US or European countries.
The cylinder distribution network is more concentrated, with 190 suppliers in 55 provinces and cities – mostly in big cities like Hà Nội, HCM City, Bình Dương and Đồng Nai – leaving nine provinces mostly in the northwestern mountainous region and the Mekong Delta without the presence of any supplier.
However, the figures might have improved in recent months after the survey was conducted, PATH suggested.
At the conference, deputy health minister Thuấn suggested that the provinces need to immediately complete their own oxygen and ventilator coordination working group, immediately review the oxygen production and supply system in the jurisdiction, prepare for responses appropriate to the local pandemic situation, with regards to medication, equipment and oxygen.
He wants localities to be proactive in all situations to avoid shortages of equipment, medicine, oxygen, and urgently work with suppliers and with neighbouring provinces to coordinate the supplies in cases of need.
As of Wednesday, Việt Nam has recorded over 1.14 million cases of COVID-19 infections. Among the 231,000 active cases, there are about 5,300 patients in a seriously ill condition, including 3,700 requiring oxygen masks, 1,020 requiring high flow nasal cannula (HFNC) therapy, 163 requiring non-invasive mechanical ventilation, 456 requiring invasive mechanical ventilation, and nine on ECMO. — VNS