As coronavirus cases surge in Peru’s two largest Amazonian cities, Catholic leaders are struggling to find ways to provide the sick with the most basic health need – life-sustaining oxygen.
In Iquitos and Pucallpa, which were already battling a dengue fever outbreak when the pandemic struck, hospitals are filled with Covid-19 patients, while others with apparent symptoms are dying at home.
“There is no oxygen, there are no (hospital) beds, there is no safety gear for staff and there isn’t much staff, because many (health workers) have fallen ill and some have died,” including four doctors, Augustinian Fr Miguel Fuertes, administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Iquitos, told Catholic News Service.
The health system in Iquitos, which because of a lack of test kits likely has far more than the 1,500 Covid-19 cases that have been confirmed officially, needs about 500 tanks of oxygen a day for patients, but the hospital’s oxygen plant is not working. Private companies can fill only a fraction of the number of tanks needed daily.
As patients’ desperate relatives try to obtain supplies, the price of a tank of oxygen – if one can be found – has skyrocketed from less than $30 to nearly $1,000, Fr Fuertes said. Often, he added, “there simply aren’t any.”
Picture: A nurse adjusts an oxygen tank next to a tent for Covid-19 patients in the parking lot of a hospital in Lima, Peru, on 16th April 2020. As coronavirus cases surge in Peru’s two largest Amazonian cities, Iquitos and Pucallpa, Catholic leaders are struggling to find ways to provide the sick with the most basic health need, life-sustaining oxygen. (CNS photo/Sebastian Castaneda, Reuters).