Protests threaten babies’ lives due to lack of oxygen

A dozen babies wait for oxygen to arrive at a La Paz hospital, while time is running out before the desperation of those who keep them alive shortly after birth.

“The moment oxygen is suddenly taken away from them, they die,” said doctor Luis Bedregal, a neonatologist at the Women’s hospital, to a group of journalists on a visit to this center.

The twelve babies in intensive care they rest in the incubators while several nurses control the medical equipment that helps them maintain their new lives. The newborn unit is ready for 24 babies, but they already have 29 and the hospitals that could support them are collapsed.

Protests and road closures

Despair is palpable in his words as this doctor wonders what he will say to parents if a baby dies from lack of this medicinal oxygen. He will not sign the death certificate, but will call a coroner, “because this is murder,” he said.

The lack of supply is attributed to social protests that have had roads cut off for more than a week, before which the interim government decided to organize their transport by plane and with military convoys by road to distribute it throughout the country.

“It is a lie” that before these locks there would be a shortage, the doctor stressed, because health centers work in a network system that shares this medicinal element and some even generate it themselves, but need liquid oxygen as a basis.

The demand is now triple, in health centers and for patients at home, at the risk of even generating speculation.

Oxygen demand on the rise

Bedregal insisted on what many health workers in Bolivia denounce, who are working beyond their capacity, with saturated health centers and much fewer staff, because among these workers the risk of contagion is three times higher and many contracted COVID-19.

However, all who can, remain “at the bottom of the barrel”, even as in this case thanks to oxygen balloons that some people have donated. “We are very limited”, sentenced, “they will die in our hands, we won’t be able to do anything. “

The teven oxygen at the entrance of the hospital it marks zero, said the director of the center, Dr. Yuri Pérez, pointing to a meter. The reserve tubes next to it are not enough, but the tanks that recharge them do not know when they will be able to get around the blockages, Pérez lamented.

Health and social crisis

In addition to newborns, oxygen is vital in other units such as intensive care and “the demand everywhere is growing”, warned the director. The hospital is full, like many in Bolivia due to the increase in patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but with fewer personnel, as many colleagues contracted the new coronavirus.

The blockades have been going on since last week by groups that demand that the elections do not be delayed again, as happened in May, now from September to October.

The interim government denounces to the Prosecutor’s Office and the international community what it considers health attack, while the blockers deny that they impede the passage of personnel and sanitary supplies.

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