Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) is appealing to well-wishers to assist it to buy oxygen cylinders from Intakatech Company in order to access oxygen from the gas producing plant at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
A letter of request from Blantyre DHO’s Services, Dr. Gift Kawalazira says Intakatech Company installed an oxygen gas producing plant at Queens which can ably supply the DHO with oxygen.
But the challenge being faced is that the DHO cannot use any other cylinders but those to be supplied by Intakatech Company itself since they are patented and it will be criminal to bypass it.
“Accessing oxygen from Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital will greatly reduce our bills for procuring the gas from other companies which is at MK72,000 per cylinder,” writes Dr. Kawalazira.
“Patient uses a minimum of four cylinders per day which brings the cost to MK288,000 per patient per day.
“Medically, High Flow Oxygen (that comes from cylinders and not concentrators) is the most effective drug that can use on a critically ill Covid-19 patient hence such kind of an investment would save a lot of lives cost effectively.”
Adding voice to the appeal through the media, vice-chairperson of Asian Business Community (ABC), Dr. Parth Patel also says Covid-19 patients that require hospitalization, acute respiratory distress only best respond to high flow oxygen administered via oxygen cylinders.
“The patients we have admitted so far have been consuming 5 to 10 oxygen cylinders per day. This is creating an enormous demand for the rapid turnover time to refill the oxygen cylinders.
“Due to the patent rights issues, they are unable to refill cylinders of other companies too and we are forced to transport our cylinders from Blantyre to Lilongwe for a refill, and some cylinders all the way to Lusaka for refill depending on the provider of the oxygen cylinder.
“There is, however, a way out of this — the World Trade Organization members had adopted a special Ministerial Declaration at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha to clarify ambiguities between the need for governments to apply the principles of public health and the terms of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).”
Patel adds that the Doha Declaration affirms that “the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent members from taking measures to protect public health.”
“The Doha Declaration refers to several aspects of TRIPS, including the right to grant compulsory licenses and the freedom to determine the grounds upon which licenses are granted, the right to determine what constitutes a national emergency and circumstances of extreme urgency, and the freedom to establish the regime of exhaustion of intellectual property rights.
“Malawi is an official member of the World Trade Organization and by default a signatory to the Doha Declaration.
“It is in this regard that I write to seek your attention and request you to make a lot of publicity regarding this in all media platforms so we can get the right offices to apply the powers of the Declaration to suit our current situation,” Patel appealed.
This will enable refilling of the oxygen cylinders for the time frame of the Covid-19 period, further enabling the health care workers to ensure that adequate and sustained care is provided to the patients in desperate need.
Patel said the ABC Covid-19 facility is also affected and are having to send their cylinders all the way to Lusaka to refill, “which is taking up precious time and waste of money too”.
“We have a refill facility right here in Blantyre at Queens, but we can’t access it. So we need your help to bring this to the attention of the authorities to push them into overcoming this problem,” he said.