Fórsa senior vice president Martin Walsh has been working with the team established to send emergency medical supplies to India to help deal with its worsening Covid-19 crisis.
Ireland sent some 700 oxygen concentrators and 365 ventilators to the sub-continent last week as part of an emergency donation, after it was reported that there was an acute shortage of oxygen and ventilation equipment in Indian hospitals.
The Irish team involves HSE workers and staff from a number of other State agencies.
This week India recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll since the pandemic began, with almost 3,700 deaths in 24 hours. But reports suggest the real figures could be much higher.
Low testing rates and the unrecorded number of people dying at home, especially in rural areas, are cited as the contributing factors.
This came a day India became the first country to register more than 400,000 new cases in a single day.
Martin works as a supplies manager in the HSE’s health business services (HBS) department, the HSE, which is responsible for purchasing equipment. He said that the original stocks of 700 oxygen concentrators were purchased to prepare for the first wave of Covid in Ireland.
“When we got the call to prepare the stocks, a team was quickly put together to prepare the pallets for the flight. They were all volunteers and, by Tuesday, we had filled up three 40-foot containers ready to be flown over.
Martin described the experience as the “best day’s work in a long, long time,” and said the team knew they were going to be making a massive difference given the scarcity of oxygen in India.
“Watching the flight leave on Wednesday morning was an absolutely amazing experience. We were then called back in to prepare a further 500 concentrators to be sent over, so we ended up with 1,200 concentrators being donated in total. It was an absolutely incredible feeling knowing the difference it would make,” he said.
The oxygen concentrators are beneficial as they provide an uninterrupted and continuous flow of oxygen that does not run out, as opposed to a cylinder which needs to be refilled after running out.
Another benefit of having the concentrators which extract oxygen from the air and supply it to patient at 90% concentration, is that they are far lighter than cylinders and can be moved easily.
Reports from India also show widespread shortage of hospital beds, with horrific accounts of people dying in car parks while waiting for oxygen or a bed. The rapidly deteriorating situation has been blamed in part to the Indian Government’s handling of the pandemic and large religious and political gatherings in the country in recent weeks.
The Irish consignment was made up of supplies previously purchased by the HSE to use in a field hospital setting. They have been donated as part of the European Civil Protection Mechanism, at the request of the Indian Government.
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