Cebu gov limits sale of medical oxygen amid panic buying, hoarding
CEBU CITY—Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has regulated the sale of medical oxygen in the province amid the panic buying and hoarding by families of patients waiting for admission in hospitals overwhelmed by the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Garcia, in her Executive Order No. 36 implemented on Wednesday, said medical oxygen should only be sold to hospitals or people who are in real need of these.
“If the sale and purchase of medical oxygen will not be regulated, panic buying … might cause a shortage of the same,” she said.
Garcia’s order mandated manufacturers and dealers of 50-pound oxygen tanks to sell them only to hospitals.
Private individuals, she said, may buy medical oxygen as long as they can present a doctor’s prescription in which case the sale will only be limited to 20-lb tanks and up to a maximum of five tanks per buyer.
Trucks hauling or transporting medical oxygen are also exempted from the truck ban being imposed on certain hours in the province.
Garcia’s executive order came after receiving reports of families of COVID-19 patients buying medical oxygen tanks to aid their sick relatives in breathing while waiting for hospital admission.
Dr. Jaime Bernadas, director of the Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas, admonished the public against the improper use of medical oxygen, saying it could lead to lung damage.
While medical oxygen is an important element in the management of severe and critical COVID-19 cases and related complications, its use must only be limited in hospitals where health-care workers can closely monitor patients.
“For an individual whose lungs are already inflamed due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, unsupervised oxygen therapy can lead to more damage and even death,” Bernadas said.
Last weekend, oxygen tanks were seen placed next to some vehicles at the compound of Chong Hua Hospital here as family members wait for their relatives to be given medical attention.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar has ordered policemen to go after those who hoard oxygen tanks and other medical supplies. Cebu City acting Mayor Michael Rama recently called on the police and the Department of Trade and Industry to also look into the problem.
A price list released by a store selling medical oxygen in Cebu City showed that a 50-lb tank costs P8,950 while its refill costs P650.
A 20-lb tank, on the other hand, costs P5,950 with refill at P550. A 5-lb tank is sold at P3,500 with refill at P450.
The DOH assured the public that Cebu has enough supply of medical oxygen from its three major manufacturers—Linde Philippines, MEPZ Mixed Gases Corp. and Sugeco-Cebu—which are all based in the province.
Cebu has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases in the past days. From three digits in previous months, the active cases on the entire island is back to more than 1,000.
As of Wednesday, Cebu City recorded 3,087 active cases of COVID-19 while Cebu province had 3,408. The highly urbanized cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu logged 1,201 and 1,312 cases, respectively.
Cebu province is under a general community quarantine with heightened restrictions while the rest of the island is under the stricter modified enhanced community quarantine from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15.
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