Address the Oxygen shortage

I think it is fair to say that we are not on top of things in so far as the COVID-19 fight is concerned.

Indeed, the topical issue has been vaccines. When public frustration reached fever pitch over the pace of the vaccination effort, the President was compelled to come of the command post to execute a tour of facilities.

An immediate pronouncement was made that the effort would move to a new age category, and all resources were unleashed, to that end. For many of us, it was a welcome development. But it was all the same, worrisome. As we celebrated, we wondered if we had the resources for the effort.

We are told that the Johnson & Johnson doses are at least five months away and we were advised that some groups that had received first doses of particular vaccines, could not get their second, because the doses were finished.

Clearly, no doses had been preserved for the second jabs, and everything was thrown in so the statistics could look better. We wondered if we would not have another crisis with the Sinovac doses, which would be an even bigger crisis. As it is, we are all holding our breaths. Already, people are being turned away from vaccination centres, and we are back where we began with only our immune systems to look to. And people, are dying.

Perhaps the situation should be so bad. There are other aspects of the war effort we seem to have messed up, and now we are paying a price for our indiscretions. Social media has been awash with calls for the government to address the shortage of Oxygen in our hospitals. Everywhere, screenshots are being exchanged from patients in government, decrying the dire situation in government facilities.

Yesterday, a fellow lawyer, now a COVID-19 patient at a government facility, sent word to friends that the situation is really bad, and that people were dying. The government has owned up to this, as a fact. On July 23, 2021, the Ministry of Health, released a public notice admitting to the problem, and assuring the nation that it is being dealt with.

One of the assurances was a 25 ton, oxygen storage facility at Sir Ketumile Teaching Hospital, as well as expedited procurement of necessary equipment to ensure that the situation is fully addressed. To be sure, the notice had the flavour of a “PR gimmick”. To begin with, it came late, as public frustration was reaching fever pitch. One doctor said to me, “If it is true, why is there such acute shortage at the hospital?”.

The other day, I bumped on another government medical doctor at Riverwalk Mall, and quizzed him on the issue. He admitted to the problem and how it is causing consternation and stress on the already overburdened hospital workers, including nursing staff.

It is hard on them, emotionally to see their patients dying, where such could be saved by mere availability of oxygen. The frustration, he told me, is fever pitch and hurting the efforts of the medical fraternity.

It is fine to be angry with government at this state of affairs. This situation was perfectly, foreseeable. But we might have to accept that our government is really at wits end. The will is there; the ability is inexistent. Proper scenario planning would have averted it. After all, it is not the first variant we are dealing with. We have dealt with others, and each has been deadlier than the last. I choose, this time however, not to go the blame route. I am making a plea to government to address this situation as a matter of urgency.

Clearly this is not a matter that can wait. People are dying, in government institutions, and the deaths are avoidable. It has become a national crisis. They are not dying because the virus is as bad as we know it is. They are dying, primarily, because the hospital personnel aren’t capacitated to deal with it. COVID-19, we have come to know, is a respiratory illness.

I have spent time in a government facility fighting for my life, and I am happy still to be having it. I know through experience, that without proper oxygen supply, the health system has no chance, at all.

Last week I urged government for far reaching measures to reset the war effort. I repeat that call today. I call the government to ensure that all that can be done is done to ensure that our people in hospitals have the basis supplies that would ensure they have a fighting chance, chief amongst them, consistent Oxygen supply.

As I have said, the circulating screenshots of patients, in government hospitals, tell a really gory story. If government must call for donations of oxygen supplies to institutions, so be it. It is wrong for government to suggest that it is managing when it is not and when people are dying.

Most of Batswana, even in our overburdened conditions, would not hesitate to come to government’s assistance to ensure that our love ones in hospitals are saved.

I ask government to be more honest, and engage the nation more on the war effort. Re a tlhaloganya, go thata. Let us put lives first, and politics last. Lying, and spinning “PR gimmicks”, in order to suggest that its managing, is costing us precious lives.

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