Asunción, 25 March 2022 (PAHO/WHO) - Arminda Sanabria is a 96-year-old grandmother who lives in Concepción. Like many others in this part of Paraguay, she contracted coronavirus, and was left with trouble breathing. The primary care doctor prescribed oxygen, a vital resource that her granddaughter, Leticia Medina, obtains at no cost each morning, thanks to the oxygen production plant installed at the regional hospital, which enables Arminda to be treated at home.
“COVID-19 has left my grandmother with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But here we are, ensuring that she has adequate, affordable treatment," Leticia said.
The plant at the Regional Hospital in Concepción is one of the two facilities installed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) as part of its work with the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare (MSPyBS) to meet the medical oxygen needs created by the pandemic and other diseases.
This is not the first time that Leticia needed medical oxygen. "During the first wave of COVID-19, my father caught the virus. We needed oxygen daily, and it was very distressing. Oxygen was growing scarce. Many people were infected, and we had to bring it in from Horqueta, a neighboring town. There were days when we had to resort to manual oxygen therapy, and we had a hard time. We also saw several families who had to sell what little they had so they could buy an oxygen balloon, refill it daily, and cover the expensive medicines that were needed," Leticia says.
Leticia, a medical student herself, recalls that "when the hospital collapsed, we were forced to buy oxygen refills from private health services. Each refill only lasted 12 hours and cost around 200,000 guaranís (US$ 56) per day."
"The oxygen production plant is a great help to the entire community,” Leticia said. “The best part is that families do not have to risk their savings.” She can now refill the oxygen balloons at zero cost.
"There is a 'before’ and an ‘after’ this plant," Leticia says. "We have been hit with a second and third wave of COVID-19, and this plant has really saved lives. My grandmother is not the only one who has been left with long-term conditions after the virus; there are other people with heart failure in addition to respiratory failure. We have all benefitted."
To obtain this vital resource, the young student says all she needs is for the physician to write her a prescription for oxygen therapy. With her two oxygen balloons, Leticia bids us "good-bye," smiling.