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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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AG says no legal impediment to Bathiudeen attending Parliament

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Public Security Minister: Those detained under PTA shouldn’t be allowed in

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, says there is no legal impediment to Opposition MP Rishad Bathiudeen attending Parliament while being detained in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

The CID arrested the leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) in the early hours of April 24 for aiding and abetting the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers.

Multiple blasts in different locations killed 270 people and wounded about 500.

The AG set the record straight in the wake of the CID failing to arrange for MP Bathiudeen to attend Parliament on May 4 and 5.

The Island learns that Police Headquarters recently consulted the AG as regards the legality of the Vanni District SJB MP attending parliamentary sessions and the SJB, on his behalf, requested the Speaker to facilitate the arrangements.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. Its parliamentary group comprises four, including Bathiudeen.

The police sought the AG’s advice after having received a missive from Serjeant at arms Narendra Fernando in that regard. The AG has advised the police that MP Bathiudeen could attend parliamentary sessions.

However, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera has advised the police against the ACMC leader attending Parliament. The Minister has issued instructions in this regard having requested the Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to prevent those detained under the PTA from attending parliament.

MP Bathiudeen has been detained for a period of 90 days pending investigations. His brother Riyajj too has been detained under PTA for 90 days.

 Minister Weerasekera, in Parliament yesterday (5) defended his decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament. Dismissing concerns raised by SJB MP Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran about the ACMC leader being deprived of his right to attend parliament sessions, Minister Weerasekera emphasized that he was responsible for public security.

Minister Weerasekera reminded Speaker Abeywardena that he had requested him not to allow anyone detained under PTA to attend parliament pending conclusion of investigations.

Weerasekera said that the CID wouldn’t have detained the MP concerned without valid reasons.

Perhaps, Field Marshal Fonseka had no concerns for public security, the former Navy Chief of Staff said, emphasising that the government wouldn’t conduct investigations the way the former Army Commander and the TNA spokesman desired.

Bathiudeen earlier served in the Cabinets of President Mahinda Rajapaksa (2010-2014) and President Maithripala Sirisena (2015-2019). The ACMC switched its allegiance to SJB at the 2020 August parliamentary election after having backed Sajith Premadasa’s candidature at the 2019 presidential.

Bathiudeens’ lawyer Rushdhie Habeeb told The Island that the decision to prevent MP Bathiudeen from attending parliament was political. Habeeb said that the issue at hand would be raised vigorously, both here and abroad, and a media briefing would be called soon to explain the situation.

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MONLAR draws attention to ticking COVID time bomb in plantations

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A large number of estate workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and given the generally congested living environment and lack of health facilities on plantations, the entire estate sector was a ticking time bomb, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) Chinthaka Rajapakshe said yesterday.

Rajapakshe told The Island  that the latest outbreak on the estates had occurred after the return of some persons from Colombo during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

“We had warned that this would happen. People kept on returning home although the preparedness of the plantation economy to face a COVID-19 outbreak was non-existent.”

 “If one person gets it, the entire line will get it, and therefore urgent steps should be taken to minimise COVID-19 spread,” Rajapakshe said, adding that such an eventuality would not only destroy lives but also cripple the plantation sector, causing an enormous loss to the state coffers.

 

 

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Clandestine dealings of fishers will precipitate spread of deadly Indian variant here – Expert

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

There was a risk of the deadly Indian COVID-19 variant spreading to Sri Lanka as well, Chief Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera told the media yesterday in Colombo.

Dr. Samaraweera said that Sri Lankan fishermen continued to interact with their Indian counterparts in mid-sea and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Indian variant entered Sri Lanka.

“We must be extremely vigilant. We have seen the devastation caused by this variant in India. These mid-sea interactions by the fishing community must be stopped.”

Dr. Samaraweera added that although the Dambulla Economic Centre

had been reopened for business yesterday morning, health officials had been compelled to close five shops as their owners violated the Covid-19 protocol.    

“This is a commercial hub where people from all parts of the country converge. So, if there are COVID-19 cases here, then it will spread across the country. Therefore, people have to act carefully and responsibly.”

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