The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has teamed with two Chicago financial groups to channel $5.5 million into efforts by Seattle-based nonprofit PATH to bring more oxygen to COVID-19 patients in India.
“Lack of access to medical oxygen is one of the defining health challenges of our age,” said Chris Elias, president of global development at the Gates Foundation. “As we are now seeing in India, the consequences can be dire.”
PATH is working with officials in 10 Indian states to help identify sources of oxygen for hospitals. PATH teams also are helping agencies identify how much oxygen local hospitals have on hand, and how much they’re going to need.
India is being overwhelmed by a second-wave COVID crisis that is killing more than 4,000 people a day.
The official death toll was 262,000 as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. But the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has warned that the actual number of deaths is probably three times that. IHME projects total COVID deaths in India will top 1 million by Aug. 1.
Lack of medical oxygen in hospitals is compounding the crisis in India. Hospitals in many areas report running low or even completely out of oxygen on a regular basis. So many people are dying that cemeteries and crematoriums in some areas can’t keep up.
The problem is that COVID patients require far more oxygen than hospitals would use on a patient with another disease, said Mohammed Ameel, PATH’s head of primary healthcare, technology and innovations in New Delhi. Oxygen is particularly important to seriously ill COVID patients, who usually develop pneumonia.
About 15% of COVID patients in India require oxygen, Ameel said. According to one report, major Indian hospitals are now using as much oxygen each day as they normally would in a week.
Under typical circumstances, India produces more than enough oxygen to meet its medical and industrial needs, Ameel said. But as demand has increased, the country’s supply chain has broken down. Large rail tankers that bring liquid oxygen to major hospitals used to travel 200 kilometers from production site to delivery point; now they’re traveling 1,000 kilometers to bring emergency oxygen to new customers, he said.
“The challenge is supply chain and turnaround time,” Ameel said.
And not all hospitals have the capacity to handle the huge oxygen tanks, Ameel said. “The challenge is not only in production, but if you produce enough, how do you transport that, and when you get to the hospital, where do you store that?” he said. “(In many cases) you don’t have the capacity to do that.”
PATH has been working closely with officials in the states of Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka to help them address those issues. Karnataka’s capital is the tech center of Bengaluru, also known as Bangalore; Maharashtra’s capital is Mumbai, the nation’s financial center. “We’re supporting procurement,” Ameel said. “We’re helping them securing oxygen concentrators and oxygen generator plants.”…
View the whole story here: https://www.geekwire.com/2021/gates-foundation-seattle-nonprofit-path-helping-get-oxygen-india/