The Oxygen Concentrator


With poor quality oxygen concentrators flooding the market, thousands of lives, already weakened by the virus, are not getting enough oxygen to breathe. Doctors
say patients must seek expert advice before buying one

A large number of people, during and after recovering from covid, have become dependent on medical oxygen. Thus the machine helping people breathe, the oxygen concentrator, has become a much sought-after device. But with oxygen concentrators in great demand, many sub-standard machines have flooded the market. While black marketers and dubious businessmen make profits, it is at the cost of the lives of innocent people, already brought to their knees by the curse of covid and its many complications.

The dependence on oxygen concentrators has increased after the government issued guidelines on May 9 that henceforth oxygen cylinders cannot be sold to individuals without a prescription, and they will be given only to hospitals. Although this was to check the hoarding of cylinders, caused due to an acute shortage following high demand from covid patients in ICU, oxygen-dependent patients and their families have been greatly inconvenienced.

And now with poor quality oxygen concentrators, thousands of lives, already weakened by the virus, are at risk.

Najeeb Sait, whose brother was hospitalised with severe pneumonia, was discharged on May 12 and advised by the doctors to recoup at home with oxygen support. Said Sait, “Getting oxygen cylinders was a big challenge so I decided to rent an oxygen concentrator from a group that was supplying them. Though they gave us a new concentrator, my brother started feeling uneasy after using it. His throat and nose started to itch and he was not able to breathe. I informed the group from whom I had rented the oxygen concentrator but they were clueless. They said they had bought it from a dealer in New Delhi but its quality was not up to the mark. Though it’s not working efficiently, we use it in between oxygen cylinder refills. “ Knows said he paid Rs 20,000 as advance and Rs 2,000 per day as rent for the oxygen concentrator.

There are many substandard oxygen concentrators out there that are not able to compress oxygen to the level that is required by patients and this can result in further health complications

– Dr Jagadish Hiremath, Medical Director of Ace Healthcare

Another group of volunteers from Mysore and Bengaluru bought around 40 concentrators to help those in need but six concentrators turned out to be faulty. The volunteer, Reshma said, “They are supposed to give 93 per cent pure oxygen but they are giving us only 70 per cent which is not enough for patients who have severe lung damage. The dealer has refused to take them back. We are left with no option but to use these for patients who have mild breathlessness.”

Get expert advice

Dr Jagadish Hiremath, Medical Director of Ace Healthcare said that since different oxygen concentrators offer different flow rates, patients must take the advice of a doctor before buying an oxygen concentrator. “Oxygen cylinders have a finite amount of oxygen compressed within them and it’s inhaled by the user until it runs out.

Oxygen concentrators filter and generate medical-grade oxygen as long as there is air in the room.

However, oxygen concentrators require an uninterrupted power supply and therefore one must have power backup at home. One also has to remember that the higher the flow rate, the heavier is the machine. There are many substandard oxygen concentrators out there that are not able to compress oxygen to the level that is required by patients and this can result in further health complications.”

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Seemant Kumar Singh, ADGP of Anti Corruption Office, said that people should always buy oxygen concentrators through reputed dealers and take advice from doctors on which is the best device to get. “We are also taking the help of a company which is attached to a major corporate hospital to understand oxygen concentrators and how to test their quality,” he said. His team said that the sieve is the heart of the concentrator system and this needs to be new and in working condition. Else, the oxygen concentrator will not function efficiently.

A senior police officer said that so far no complaints have been registered about faulty oxygen concentrators. The police are trying to make people aware of this racket so they are vigilant.

Check before your buy

Oxygen Output percentage: This can be checked using an oxygen analyser – a small hand-held device. When connected to the output, it will measure and show the oxygen concentration of the output.

Flow rate, in terms of gas output in litres per minute (LPM.) Again a handheld flow meter is required.

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