Indonesia’s government has ordered producers to prioritize medical oxygen as it battles a Covid surge and a shortage of oxygen in several cities.
Hospitals say they have almost exhausted supplies, with one reporting that 63 patients died as a result of oxygen shortages.
Indonesia is recording more than 25,000 new cases every day.
Increased travel and the highly contagious Delta variant have exacerbated the crisis.
Indonesia has had the worst Covid outbreak in South East Asia, with about 2.3 million positive cases and quite 60,000 deaths thus far.
However, experts warn that the general numbers are potentially much higher due to severely inadequate testing outside the capital Jakarta.
A lockdown was announced on the country’s main island Java, also as within the tourist island of Bali last week.
‘A war-like emergency’
On Monday, two hospitals in the city of Bandung announced that they had run out of oxygen, and had to reject new patients seeking emergency treatment.
Over the weekend, emergency services and medical care units of public hospitals within the cities of Bandung, Surakarta, and Pamekasan said they were battling an influx of individuals seeking admission with some having to show away patients.
Others have set up tents outside.
“It’s a war-like emergency,” a woman seeking treatment for her elderly mother told the BBC’s Indonesian service. Her mother had first been rejected at a hospital that had run out of beds and was only ready to get admitted to a makeshift tent at another one.
In the Regional General Hospital (RSUD) in Bandung, the emergency room was closed for Covid patients as of 2 July, with the lack of oxygen being one of the reasons.
“Four days ago, there was a shortage of oxygen supply from distributors and vendors,” hospital head Mulyadi said. “So, four days ago, I attempted to form the utilization of oxygen more efficient.”
He added that producers are struggling to satisfy the increased demand from hospitals.
“Every day a lot of people come, 10 to 15 Covid-19 patients, there are a lot of queues,” doctor Syaiful Hidayat at the Smart Pamekasan Hospital informed.
The pulmonary specialist says they initially found out an emergency tent for Covid patients but were later forced to show some patients away.
Health ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi said that they had asked the gas industry to intensify the production of medical oxygen, and appealed to people to not hoard.
“We hope people don’t stock up on oxygen,” she said, adding that this would only worsen the shortage for others.
Her comments come as people have been trying to privately secure oxygen cylinders to treat patients at home.
New cylinders and refills are hard to come by, and prices have doubled because of high demand.