MoH warns against stockpiling of medical devices

July 21, 2021 - 07:30
The Ministry of Health has alerted people not to buy or hoard ventilators, medical oxygen generators or oxygen cylinders as it will waste money, lead to a shortage of supplies and cause difficulties for medical facilities that need to buy machines for patients in need.


Secretary of Bình Dương Province's Provincial Party Committee Nguyễn Văn Lợi inspects production of oxygen cylinders at Việt Nam Messer Industrial Gas Co. Ltd. VNA/VNS Photo: Chí Tưởng

HÀ NỘI – The Ministry of Health has alerted people not to buy or hoard ventilators, medical oxygen generators or oxygen cylinders as it will waste money, lead to a shortage of supplies and cause difficulties for medical facilities that need to buy machines for patients in need.

Deputy Director of the ministry’s Medical Examination and Treatment Administration Department Nguyễn Trọng Khoa said the ministry and HCM City health sector would ensure there were no shortages of ventilators for severe coronavirus patients.

“The mass purchase of ventilators and medical oxygen generators is wasteful because the installation and operation of these machines requires more complicated medical procedures than normal health monitoring devices, which cannot be used at home,” he said. “It will also make it impossible for hospitals to buy machines for patients in need if the pandemic develops unpredictably,”

Due to the super-contagious Delta variant, the number of infections has reached more than 56,470 cases nationwide, with HCM City recording over 35,980 since the fourth wave of the pandemic began in late April.

The rising number of cases has left many people worried. Many have been looking to buy oxygen generators and oxygen cylinders as preparation for the worst, despite expert warnings.


An oxygen generator advertised online. VNA/VNS Photo 

Nguyễn Thu Thủy, in HCM City’s Linh Tây Ward in Thủ Đức City, said she purchased a ventilator so that she could use it when needed.

“In this situation, young people can easily overcome the coronavirus. But for elderly people with underlying diseases like my parents, it is necessary to have supportive machines,” she said.

“Although I do not know how effective the machine is, I decided to buy one for my parents so that we feel secure. In case one of us are infected, we will have a device available to use." 

Lê Hạnh Trinh in Ward 4, District 3, has just ordered some medical care equipment for her family, including a foreign brand medical oxygen generator costing VNĐ11 million (US$440) and an oxygen meter for VNĐ3 million.

However, it will take two to three weeks to have them delivered as they are currently out of stock.

Trinh said she read that a medical oxygen generator was capable of creating pure oxygen with a concentration of over 90 per cent after removing toxic substances from the air. It could be used for patients with heart or lung failure, so she made an order even though the price was two to three times higher than two weeks ago.

Since a pilot isolation of F0 cases at home took effect, demand for oxygen generators and cylinders has been outstripping supply, with prices up to three times higher than normal.

Thu Ngân, in District 7’s Tân Thuận Ward, said she asked for the price of an oxygen generator at An Sinh Medical Company and was informed that the South Korea-imported device cost between VNĐ135-385 million, the Germany-imported device between VNĐ39-50 million, and the China-imported one ranging from VNĐ8-24 million.

These machines must be ordered and are only delivered three weeks later.

A representative of An Sinh Medical Company said when an F0 was treated at home, a ventilator could be needed. According to medical experts, all specialized ventilators can be used for coronavirus patients with light to heavy symptoms and can be used anywhere.

“Many families in HCM City have equipped ventilators to be used at home in case of the overloading of hospitals. Some have even equipped ICU rooms worth billions of đồng at home,” he added.

Cylinders as well as other oxygen devices take two weeks to be delivered.

According to medical oxygen generating suppliers, coronavirus patients initially have no symptoms and gradually suffer progressive dyspnea and eventually respiratory failure. In the period of difficult breathing, if there is oxygen supply it can help patients improve. At the period of respiratory failure, fresh oxygen is even more important for the patient when combined with a ventilator for emergency.

Tăng Chí Thượng, Deputy Director of HCM City Department of Health, said there was no shortage of oxygen cylinders and ventilators at hospitals. The city’s health sector has also planned for the worst-case scenario and would ensure enough devices for patients.

“The department has proposed the city’s People’s Committee provide more devices to treat COVID-19 patients,” he said.

Deputy Director Khoa said the establishment and operation of ventilators should be done in medical facilities with the required equipment, and such devices must be operated by professionally trained staff.

In addition, in the process of using ventilators, patients need to be periodically checked and monitored, and necessary tests carried out for timely treatment.

According to the Ministry of Health, in this outbreak about 80 per cent of coronavirus patients are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Only about 5 per cent of cases need oxygen, 0.17 per cent non-invasive ventilation and 1.3 per cent invasive ventilation.

The ministry has surveyed and evaluated the capacity of oxygen production nationwide, which showed the ability to supply oxygen from domestic production units was 30 times higher than the current demand in hospitals.

Accordingly, people should not buy and store oxygen cylinders at home as they are not only unusable but also have a great potential for fire and explosion. VNS