IGL says health authorities ignored request for supply forecastThursday, September 02, 2021
IGL Limited yesterday revealed that the country's health authorities, for months, neglected to provide forecasts of the island's need for medical oxygen despite repeated requests from the company.
The stunning revelation has shed light on one of the reasons for the oxygen shortage at the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic's third wave that has increased deaths and hospitalisations.
According to IGL Managing Director Peter Graham, even without a response to repeated requests for forecasts of requirements for medical oxygen, the company invested millions of Jamaican dollars in the upscaling of facilities/storage and distribution capacity.
The company also procured “hundreds of additional oxygen cylinders, deployed across the island, while collaborating with the medical authorities to ensure the best possible care for all patients requiring medical oxygen, including non-COVID-19 patients”, Graham said.
“This resulted in effective and efficient management of medical oxygen over several months,” he added.
Last weekend news emerged that oxygen supplies had fallen critically low, leaving hospitals struggling to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients, some of whom have been placed in surgical wards and intensive care units due to the increasing number of cases in the country.
On Saturday Graham revealed that the island was scheduled to receive four shipments of oxygen this week, starting early Monday morning. The first shipment arrived about 1:00 am from Trinidad and, according to Graham, a second shipment was expected from the USA Monday evening.
The third and fourth shipments were scheduled to arrive from Costa Rica on Tuesday, easing the shortage for at least two weeks.
Yesterday, Graham said IGL was doing all it could to ensure supplies of oxygen, “despite current contracts not being in place, except with one of the regional health authorities, which requested, and was granted, a six-month extension”.
The company also said that, despite numerous efforts, for years prior to the onset of the pandemic, it was not successful in having other contracts put in place.
Graham said that in 2018 IGL invested more than US$10 million in a local oxygen-producing plant, which has provided a critical supply source during the pandemic.
“As demand increased in many countries, exports of the product to other countries [including Jamaica] were reduced and/or prohibited. Some companies have even declared force majeur and have stopped shipping, and this has caused a disruption in imports from these sources. Many of IGL's traditional suppliers are now dealing with their own Government's prohibitions on export,” Graham explained.
He said, due to the pandemic, the demand for medical oxygen rose to unprecedented levels in recent weeks, resulting in IGL's workers having to produce and deliver oxygen “24 hours a day, seven days a week”.
“Right now we are supplying up to three and four times the normal requirement, with a combination of local production and imported product,” Graham said.
He said that, notwithstanding the circumstances, IGL has been able to forge new relationships with alternative sources, leveraging the company's broad international network, and shipments of medical oxygen have already begun to arrive.
“However, as positive cases continue to rise in Jamaica there will be need for even more supplies and here is where the Government and its external relationships are now critical,” Graham said. “These relationships have proven important in allowing the National Health Fund to import vaccines and may also be helpful with respect to sourcing much-needed medical oxygen as COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise.”
He said that, as a responsible partner, IGL is willing to work with the Government “in whatever way is possible as it has always done in service to the nation for over 60 years”.