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Medical Specialists: Only 28 hospitals have liquid oxygen tanks

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Noting that the best way to deliver oxygen to a patient’s bedside is to have piped oxygen distributed from a central liquid oxygen tank, rather than using cylinders, the Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) has said that Sri Lanka only has 28 such liquid oxygen tanks installed in hospitals.

Dr A J A L Fernando, President, AMS, yesterday said, in a media statement, that the sizes of those tanks ranged from 3,000 to 20,000 litres, but only two had 20,000 litre tanks. One was the National Hospital and the other the Peradeniya Teaching Hospital, the AMS has said.

“The others are relatively smaller. With the current coronavirus being highly transmissible, taking patients to hospitals with larger tanks may not be an option as many of these hospitals mainly cater to non-Covid patients. Spreading the disease within a hospital could also result in disaster. With this, the system will still have to largely depend on jumbo cylinders where each can carry 47 liquid litres that produce 7,050 gas litres of oxygen.”

Dr. Fernando added that although the jumbo cylinders were heavy enough to need more than a couple of people to move them, each of them might not last for more than a few hours as regards a highly oxygen dependant patient. Managing oxygen between hospitals and delivering it to the individual patient would certainly need intelligent planning and extreme coordination of production, storage and efficient delivery, he said.

Dr Fernando added that his association did not see any pragmatic strategy on the part of the government in place to face eventualities that could arise given the spike in COVID-19 cases. “The number of Covid-19 patients is on the rise in Sri Lanka. It has exceeded 1,000 a day and is still rising. We know that our existing capacity to treat patients (intensive care and high dependency beds) has reached its threshold. Experts have clearly mentioned the higher infectivity and virulence of the current strain warranting and increased need for oxygen dependency and intensive care.”

Excerpts of the AMS statement: “Since there is no firmly established cure for this disease, symptomatic treatment is the mainstay till the recovery is reached. However, oxygen and ICU care play a crucial role in critical cases and we should ensure that there will be a constant and uninterrupted availability of oxygen supplied beds if we are to avert disaster. Apparently, being a financially stronger regional giant, India is facing immense hardships due to shortage of oxygen right now.

“As oxygen is considered the most important medical need and likely to be in short supply, all necessary steps must be taken to avoid a crisis.

“To the best of our knowledge there are two companies that supply oxygen to healthcare facilities and these manufacturers can easily increase their production almost three-fold. Together they now produce around 75 tons of oxygen per day of which a portion is supplied for industrial use. They can divert all their oxygen production to health if the need arises and Sri Lanka has sufficient source of supply. However, the more important issue is the delivery of this oxygen to patient’s bedside. The best way to do this is to have piped oxygen distributed from a central liquid oxygen tank rather than using cylinders. Unfortunately, the whole country only has 28 such liquid oxygen tanks installed in hospitals. The sizes range from 3000 to 20000 litres, but there are only two 20,000 size tanks one each at National Hospital and Peradeniya and others are relatively smaller. With the current Covid being highly transmissible, taking patients to hospitals with larger tanks may not be an option as many of these hospitals mainly cater to non-covid patients. Spreading the disease within a hospital could also result in disaster. With this the system will still have to largely depend on jumbo cylinders where each can carry 47 liquid litres that produce 7050 gas litres of oxygen. Though heavy enough to need more than a couple of people to move them, each jumbo cylinder may not last for more than few hours in a highly oxygen dependant patient. Managing oxygen between hospitals and delivering to the individual patient will certainly need intelligent planning and extreme coordination of production, storage and efficient delivery.

“For this, we need to utilize the services of relevant experts in these fields to design and implement the best national plan and it should be kept strictly apolitical. If such action is not taken in this crucial juncture, we will be another nation who has “planned to fail” as we have “failed to plan”.

“It is also important that we take a serious note of the high rate of disease spread in spite of the present prevention strategies. A degree of complacency and overconfidence can take Sri Lanka to a critical point faster as it has happened in some countries. Out of all, Prevention is THE best strategy and we need to do everything possible to prevent and slow down the spread. Even if a lockdown is needed, it is best to foresee and think ahead and be prepared to do it if it is essential.

“Only the authorities who have the real information and data, can make that decision. It should not be a political decision, but a decision to save the country and its people based on scientific principles both for today and tomorrow. It is very evident now that the countries can go up or down in the success of Covid control based on the wisdom they demonstrate during decision making. Moreover, while appreciating all the positive moves the government has taken towards Covid control, we believe it is the duty of the health authorities to submit the correct information and data to the political authorities without any delay. We urge the authorities to consider all above facts and make prompt decisions based on scientific facts and rational thinking to face the present Covid 19 situation. The AMS is ready to provide the government and health authorities its maximum support at this hour of need.”



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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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Cardinal urges Catholics to fight for justice

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 By Norman Palihawadane

Today’s Church does not need ‘sacristy Catholics’ but a laity who fight for justice, says Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Addressing a gathering at a ceremony to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Deva Dharma Nikethanaya, at Archbishop’s House auditorium, at Borella, last week, the Cardinal said that turning every layperson into a mature Christian, fit for leadership, should be the foremost duty of the Catholic Church. “Once the Catholic Church functioned as a Bishop-priest centered church and did only what the Bishop of the priest would say. We have to change the outlook of the Church. Today, we no longer need such sacristy Catholics. We need a laity who are ready to get down to the streets and fight for justice and do what is right for society,” the Cardinal said.

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said.

He said that the Bishops and Priests should not be afraid of handing over the responsibilities to the laity. “We should share our responsibilities with joy. The Church cannot continue otherwise. Understanding this situation, Pope Francis wants to change the priest-centres position that has become a theoretical doctrine in the church and to study how the church should change in a way that suits the present world.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka Rev Dr Brian Udaigwe and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference President Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera also addressed the gathering.

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Protests against 13A used to arouse communal feelings – SJB

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Protests against the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution are being used to arouse communal feelings among people ahead of an election, says the main Opposition SJB.

Addressing the media on Saturday, at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip, SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said:

“This country has witnessed many instances in the past. This time, too, the same old slogan of the country being divided is heard again.

“The 13th Amendment is part of the Constitution. All parties have contested elections under the 13th Amendment. The UNP, SLFP, SLPP and JVP have contested provincial council elections. It shows that they have accepted the 13th Amendment. Those in such parties now opposing the 13th Amendment must first explain how they oppose it directly while accepting the same indirectly by sending their members to the provincial councils set up under the 13th Amendment,” Kiriella said.

“The claim of the country being divided by the 13th amendment is made to arouse the communal feelings.

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