IN the midst of the current Covid-19 third wave, Namibia’s oxygen crisis seems to have opened up a market for more people to get into the business of selling oxygen-related products and services to desperate families.
The situation has forced families to start purchasing the products for emergency purposes as well as precautionary measures outside hospitals.
Windhoek resident Dagmar Gruner (30) forked out N$12 000 on oxygen for her father who was critically ill with Covid-19. Gruner and her family desperately looked for an oxygen tank in an attempt to save her father’s life.
“It was expensive, but we paid what we had to. It’s just what you do when you are in a crisis and you just want to help your loved ones,” an emotional Gruner said. She said by the time they acquired the tank, it was too late. Her father had passed away last Wednesday, an hour after they purchased the 4,5 kilogramme oxygen tank for N$12 000.
“We never really got to use the tank because my dad passed away,” she said, fighting back tears.
Her father (57) was admitted to the Robert Mugabe Clinic in Windhoek on Tuesday night and was put on oxygen. Gruner noted the clinic did everything they could to help her father.
“We know the oxygen is in short supply so we bought it in case, however the virus did so much damage to him already that the oxygen was not sufficient anymore,” she added.
She did, however, mention that her family will keep the tank as a precautionary measure.
Kevin Vries (30), also from Windhoek, also said he was desperate to find oxygen tanks as his parents were also infected with Covid-19 and he did not want their situation to get critical without having bought the tanks.
Vries also added that his 75-year-old grandmother was at a local hospital from 10h00 to 14h00 waiting for oxygen but was informed there was nothing. He and his family started running around and making inquiries on social media for oxygen and found a place in Prosperita that was selling a tank for N$22 000.
They purchased it and this prompted him to start making plans to purchase tanks for his parents.
“The 10 kg oxygen tank I bought for N$22 000 worked, but I think there was a problem with the oxygen flow. It took my grandmother almost a week to recover. The 5,7kg oxygen tank I bought for my parents was purchased at N$11 000 and works way better and faster,” Vries added.
“I think it’s unfair. This is a pandemic, man. I also own a business so I understand, but this is not the time to make profit. I know some guys who are charging triple the price and that is just being very greedy,” he said.
Lucky Asheelo (27) who got two tanks from the same supplier that Vries got his 5,7 kg also said that the prices are too steep.
“The guy I got the tanks from gave me a reasonable price as opposed to some guys who offered me up to N$15 000 for a 5,7 kg oxygen tank,” he said.
Asheelo said he bought the two tanks for his parents as a precautionary measure because of the situation in the country. He has not used them yet, but informed The Namibian that they are under warranty.
Chief executive officer and owner of Innovative Surgical Medical Supplies (I-Surgical), Clarence Goagoseb told The Namibian that due to the Covid-19 situation in supplier countries, the prices for the products have increased.
He said some supplier countries, including South Africa and India with large populations, had the power to buy out the products already, thereby making it more expensive for the Namibian market because they are usually the last to buy.
“When the crisis began, we started getting more calls from people ordering at high volumes so we called our suppliers and told them we need more stock. They then told us that prices have changed,” Goagoseb added.
Goagoseb said he changed his prices three days before June and before that he used to sell a 5 litre oxygen concentrator for N$13 000 and a 10-litre for N$19 000.
He also told The Namibian the price for the concentrators ranges from N$18 000 to N$35 000.
“The standard 5-litre oxygen concentrator goes for about N$17 800, the 5-litre concentrator with a mobiliser function goes for about N$24 000. The 10-litre without the mobiliser function goes for about N$29 000 while the 10-litre with the mobiliser function sells for about N$35 000,” he explained.
Goagoseb said that since the oxygen crisis hit the country, they have seen an influx in customers and orders.
“We used to sell about 10 to 20 units per month. Today alone [Tuesday], we sold 30 units and have 40 units ordered for tomorrow,” Goagoseb said.
He further said for the month of June, I-Surgical sold about 160 five-litre oxygen concentrators and about 120 ten-litre oxygen concentrators.
Goagoseb, who said he used to be a nurse at The Roman Catholic Hospital, warned Namibians to familiarise themselves with information from relevant authorities and institutions.
Another supplier, Sven Schulz, said he only sells the ten-litre oxygen concentrators as they can produce the amount of oxygen needed.
“Any critical Covid-19 patient needs between 90 and 94% pure oxygen and this is the ten litre that can produce that kind of oxygen purity,” Schulz said.
Hence, he said he cannot sell the five litre concentrators as they do not provide sufficient oxygen to the patient.
Schulz said that he started ordering the oxygen concentrators as his friends were in dire need of it and the pricing of the oxygen in the country was too high.
He said he took the initiative to order oxygen concentrators as he was a doctor and has contacts in India where he gets them from.
He said he also did it to help those in need because according to him, some companies have ridiculously high prices for oxygen.
“At this stage I am working with big corporate companies, churches and charity organisations who are buying these machines from me simply to help the community which is in need at this stage,” Schulz said.
According to Schulz, the lifespan of the ten-litres oxygen concentrators is guaranteed to last 22 000 hours.
He said he sells the 10 litres concentrators for N$15 000, including the flying cost. It takes seven to 10 working days for the product to arrive in Namibia from India.
Managing member of Silivondela Business Solution, Jerry Chikambi, said that they have received more than 40 clients since the country started running out of oxygen.
According to Chikambi, he started the pharmaceutical business two years ago and charges N$24 000 for oxygen concentrators and N$4 000 for nebulisers.
Health minister Kalumbi Shangula said it is very difficult to have a Covid-19 patient who is already showing symptoms to advise them to go out and look for oxygen.
Kalumbi said this on Friday on The Namibian’s The Conversation interview.
According to Kalumbi, the ministry is looking at the Katutura Health Centre due to the big numbers of Covid-19 patients coming in.
He said this is to make room for Covid-19 patients and patients who require non Covid-19 assistance for their services to be offered elsewhere.
“We will have multiple areas where patients can be assisted rather than for them to help themselves at home,” he said.
He also said that he does not want situations where people die at home.