Dubai: Following the Indian government’s green signal for the import of oxygen concentrators, there has been a mad rush among Indian expatriates to send this unique oxygen filtering device to their loved ones, so much so that distributors in UAE say they have run out of current supplies.
Spokesmen of at least two distributors of oxygen concentrators in the UAE – Metro Med and Life Pharmacy - said they had done brisk business to sell this device all throughout March and April and handled hundreds of orders for the product. However, both confirmed they had run out of supplies and were expecting a consignment by mid-May for which Indian expatriates were making advance bookings.
Humaid Hussain, product manager of Metromed said they were expecting a consignment by May 20 and so far all their concentrators had been sold. “We deal with the Phillips Resprionic concentrators which have a capacity of filtering 90 per cent oxygen. We have the device available in 3-5 litres per minute flow. The other larger capacity device with 10 litres per minute flow has been discontinued in the region."
Right now, we have no stocks left and are waiting for our consignment. We already have advance bookings for these. Last month, we sold about 100 concentrators.
Qusai Osman, salesperson at the medical equipment division of Life Pharmacy, Al Wasl Branch, Dubai, reiterated the shortage while confirming brisk sales in oxygen concentrators. He told Gulf News, “We have run out of both the Phillips respirators and another Chinese brand. We are expecting fresh stocks of the Chinese product by May 15 and are already taking orders as we have many Indian expatriates enquiring about it.”
What are oxygen concentrators?
Dr Sandeep Pargi, Specialist Pulmonologist at the Aster Hospital, Mankhool, explained: “Oxygen concentrators have been around for a long time and we prescribe it to patients of hypoxia. This is a condition where people have difficulty in breathing and find their oxygen saturation in blood getting low. Usually, the saturation in blood should be 98-100 but these people have the saturation falling to 90 and below. These are patients suffering from Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease (COPD) with smoker’s lungs, those with Interstitial Lung Disease and Pulmonary Fibrosis where the lung tissue has firbrosed and is unable to draw oxygen from the air. In COVID-19 cases, people are experiencing cytokine storms and lung damage which results in similar fibrosis and an oxygen concentrator can play a life-saving role in case of mild to moderate cases of COVID -19 where oxygen saturation falls to 90. This might not work in severe cases where hospitalisation is required.”
How does the concentrator work?
Dr Prashant Rajgopalan, Director MGM Health Care, which is a centre for heart and lung transplants and has been attending to many lung-damaged COVID-19 patients said: “ COVID-19 affects the respiratory organs causing a sudden drop in the levels of oxygen in the body. Such patients then need oxygen support. Oxygen levels can be measured by oxygen saturation monitoring with the help of a pulse oximeter.
The oxygen concentrator is a portable plug-in device on wheels weighing not more than 14kg. When plugged into a source of electricity, it begins drawing upon the ambient air which contains 21 per cent oxygen, 78 per cent nitrogen and one per cent other gases into one of its two chambers. In one chamber, it holds back nitrogen, CO2 and other compressed gases of the atmosphere and filters out oxygen to the other chamber from which it is continuously supplied to the patient via a mask or a cannula.
In the current scenario, it’s need of the hour for hospitals around the world to have ample opportunities to stock up oxygen concentrators which can prove to be a game changer, especially during COVID-19 patient management.
Dr Pargi added: “The patient therefore gets a concentrated supply of oxygen of about 90-95 per cent with a flow of 3-5 litres per minute in the medium model which his enough for someone suffering from moderate to mild COVID-19.”
Hussain explained, “The difference between an oxygen cylinder and concentrator is that the former is a storage container and once the oxygen is depleted, it is empty. However, the concentrator once plugged in can continuously supply oxygen. It needs no other maintenance, is portable and only requires a change of filter once in two years.”
The device is available on online portals and the Indian government has waived off any import duty on it if expatriates wish to gift it their loved ones in India.
The price ranges from Dh3,500 for a 5 litre per minute capacity to Dh5,725 for a 10 litre per minute capacity concentrator. A lighter portable machine weighing just 4-5kg, which can be wheeled into different locations including parks, auditoriums, public places as well as aircraft, is priced at Dh12,000. However, everything is out of stock currently.