Some residents of Mexico spent New Years Eve in queues winding down a street and around a corner, waiting to fill oxygen cans for parents suffering from Covid-19, reports AP.
The city of 9 million people has seen an increase in coronavirus infections and hospitals are 87% occupied, straining the oxygen supply.
This has resulted in long queues and price hikes that make it difficult or impossible for some to fill tanks which in some cases last only a few hours.
Blanca Nina Méndez Rojas was lining up on Thursday to fill a tank for her brother, recently released from a public hospital after contracting Covid-19.
“We just left it offline [from oxygen], so it has to remain fully tilted so as not to be agitated or have a problem, until we come back with the tank, ”Méndez Rojas said, noting“ two weeks ago a recharge cost 70 pesos (3.50 $), and now it’s 150 pesos ($ 7.50) ”.
In a city where people are afraid to go to the hospital, and where those who will have difficulty finding a bed, it becomes a matter of life and death.
Juan José Ledesma, a retiree from Mexico City, fell ill with his wife and son. When his test came back positive on December 16, he had to stay home – and see a private doctor – because the local hospital did not have a room.
“I am taking medication prescribed by a private doctor because what happened is we went to a health center and there was no room,” Ledesma said. “There was no room because too many people were coming in” to be treated.
Since then, her son, who has recovered, has had to go outside three or four times a day to try to fill his father’s oxygen tank.
“The price has gone up two or three times,” Ledesma said. Thinking about the problem, he began to cry softly. “I think of rural areas, where things are more difficult, more difficult and where people have to wait longer or they really can’t afford it.”
Iván, an employee of an oxygen-filling store who only gave his first name because his bosses had not allowed him to speak to reporters, admitted that sometimes there were so many people desperately waiting to the essence that they could not fill everything. their cans completely.
“There are times when we don’t have enough oxygen to completely fill everyone’s tanks,” he says. “There are times when we need to cut back on recharging, so everyone in the line can at least bring oxygen to their loved ones.”
To top it off, city officials didn’t do much to combat price hikes that doubled or tripled the price of a refill, but they shut down a black market in which oxygen producers industrial grade cans sold for medical use. Industrial oxygen, used to power acetylene torches, is not as pure as medical grade gas.
The city government has started a program to give some people oxygen cans or oxygen concentrators, which are machines that extract oxygen from the air and do not need to be refilled. But there isn’t enough for everyone, and buying one of the machines on the private market is prohibitive for most families.
Before the pandemic, base machines started at around $ 900, but prices have since been reported to have jumped to $ 1,500 or more.
“The prices of concentrators have exploded, there has been too much profit,” Méndez Rojas said.