ANYONE WHO NEEDS OXYGEN IN PERU CAN HARDLY IGNORE GERMAN COMPANIES
“Oxygen is not just any drug; the buying strategy and the logistics are fundamentally different from other drugs, ”says Dr. Rocio Espino. She heads the Medicines Procurement Department (CENARES) at the Peruvian Ministry of Health. In 2020 she was mainly busy getting enough medical oxygen for the many corona patients.
That turned out to be not at all easy, says Dr Espino in an interview with InfoPeru. On the one hand, there was just one (other sources say six) hospitals in Peru with an autonomous oxygen supply, i.e. a system that draws oxygen from the air and breaks it down into medical oxygen. There were no patient beds with oxygen connections, as are common in most countries, in Peru’s hospitals. “And then there is the fact that every regional hospital makes its own oxygen purchases,” explains the doctor. That means, until a few months after the outbreak of the pandemic, the Ministry of Health did not know how much oxygen was available in the country and how much was needed.
THE DEMAND HAS TRIPLED
Today Rocio Espino knows the number: the need for oxygen has tripled during the corona pandemic. And the two main suppliers of liquid oxygen in Peru couldn’t keep up with the delivery. Praxair-Linde and Airproducts practically had a monopoly on oxygen delivery in Peru. Only they could produce 99% oxygen, as prescribed by the Peruvian standard. Their contracts with the hospitals also included the supply of tanks and oxygen bottles. Even when the oxygen was available, there was often a lack of bottles and tanks to fill it up. After all, Airproducts has put an already abandoned liquid oxygen plant in Chimbote back into operation. Thanks to her, so Espino, the care has been improved a lot. On the other hand, a lot of liquid oxygen is imported from Ecuador and Chile.
However, the price of oxygen has increased, says Dr Espino. When it was 1.50 – 4 soles per m3 before the pandemic, it rose to 6-7 soles per m3 after the outbreak of Corona. The reason, according to the provider, is the purchase from abroad and the increased expense for transport.
But is that enough to be prepared for the second wave?
OXYGEN PLANT MANUFACTURERS ARE BOOMING
In addition to the liquid oxygen, which is produced in the industrial plants of the two large suppliers, smaller plants with the PSA air separation process are an alternative, especially for the small hospitals in the Andes and the Amazon region. Because transporting the liquid oxygen there is dangerous and costly.
In October, Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti announced that her ministry would buy 81 oxygen systems for the hospitals and that these would be delivered in October and November. It is not yet known whether these systems have been delivered.
But not only the state ordered oxygen systems. Congregations, regional governments, bishops and companies began to raise money and buy oxygen systems on their own. The best known initiative is “Respira Peru”. Under this name, the Peruvian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the industry association SNI and private individuals have come together to raise money for oxygen systems. 8,600,000 soles (around 2 million euros) were collected according to the bishops’ conference. Nine systems of various sizes as well as smaller oxygen bottles, intensive care beds and others have been installed throughout Peru (including in Chachapoyas, Trujillo, Yurimaguas, Camana, Tacna and Puerto Maldonado)
While the German company Linde fell into disrepute because of its market dominance for liquid oxygen in Peru, another company from Herrsching at the Ammersee lake is now in great demand in Peru.