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  • Narrator: Demand for oxygen in Peru

  • has exceeded supply.

  • With hospitals running out

  • during the country's punishing second COVID wave,

  • families have to buy their own.

  • A single cylinder can cost up to $400 on the black market.

  • The lack of oxygen helps makes Peru

  • the country with the world's highest death rate

  • per capita from COVID-19.

  • Thousands have died in Lima in recent months,

  • and this is where many of them end up

  • the vast Virgen de Lourdes cemetery.

  • That's Lenin Froilan.

  • He spent more than $6,000 on oxygen

  • to try to help his mother

  • before she died from COVID.

  • Narrator: How did this happen,

  • and why is medical oxygen so expensive?

  • We met Lenin standing in line

  • to get oxygen for his mother

  • one day before she died.

  • He had been waiting since 4 a.m.

  • Narrator: This plant

  • on the southern outskirts of the capital

  • offers free medical oxygen

  • to those with a prescription,

  • but the wait is anywhere from 12 to 15 hours.

  • People eat and sleep in line until it's their turn.

  • They're only allowed to fill one 10-cubic-meter cylinder

  • every 48 hours.

  • That won't do for Lenin's family.

  • A patient with severe COVID-19

  • needs up to three cylinders a day.

  • His three sisters have COVID, too,

  • so he's had to spend thousands of dollars

  • on additional cylinders wherever he can find them.

  • Lenin sells furniture

  • and earns about $650 a month,

  • so he's relied on the last of his savings.

  • Narrator: So why don't Peru's hospitals have oxygen?

  • In most of North America and Europe,

  • companies mass-produce medical oxygen

  • and deliver it in liquid form by tanker.

  • Liquid oxygen is more dense

  • and kept in large vessels at very low temperatures.

  • Hospitals then pipe it directly to the beds of patients.

  • The pandemic has caused oxygen shortages

  • in places like Brazil, Mexico, and India

  • as hospitals struggle to keep up with demand.

  • Prices skyrocketed in countries

  • that lack health infrastructure

  • and relied on oxygen cylinders,

  • which are more expensive.

  • Narrator: Bulk oxygen piped into hospitals

  • costs as little as one-tenth as much as oxygen in cylinders.

  • It's like paying for bottled water

  • instead of getting it from the tap.

  • At peak times in April and May,

  • Peru fell short

  • of nearly 40,000 cylinders of oxygen every day.

  • At one point, neighboring Chile

  • sent liquid oxygen to help,

  • but it did not fill the gap.

  • Overwhelmed hospitals in Lima

  • ran out of beds in February.

  • Patients lined up outside to get oxygen,

  • but with thousands of severe cases a day,

  • hospitals ran out.

  • Narrator: Families took it upon themselves

  • to look after their loved ones

  • and began shopping for cylinders.

  • Homes started to look like hospitals

  • with medical equipment lying around.

  • Narrator: Marisol got sick

  • caring for her parents at home,

  • but she didn't stop helping them.

  • Narrator: So how do people in Peru buy oxygen?

  • Companies couldn't produce enough oxygen

  • as the second wave hit in February,

  • so black market operators like this man

  • stepped in to meet demand.

  • Narrator: Now he exchanges

  • empty cylinders for full ones

  • and charges up to $400 for a full cylinder.

  • Narrator: This small factory in Lima

  • has also raised prices,

  • just not as high as the black market.

  • A 10-cubic-meter cylinder

  • that used to cost $16 to fill

  • is now $70.

  • Narrator: Oxiromero began making its own oxygen

  • using a technique known as pressure swing adsorption

  • to extract oxygen from the air.

  • But that only allows them

  • to fill about 20 tanks at a time.

  • Narrator: Oxiromero would need to overhaul the plant

  • to produce more oxygen,

  • and that's out of reach during the pandemic.

  • Narrator: At the Virgen de Lourdes cemetery,

  • Lenin laid his mother to rest

  • alongside hundreds of other victims

  • of Peru's second wave.

  • Narrator: Lenin says it's hard to be hopeful

  • with his sisters still fighting the virus.

Narrator: Demand for oxygen in Peru

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Why Oxygen Is So Expensive | So Expensive

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/05
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