A local Community Pharmacy has issued an urgent appeal for the return of empty and unused oxygen cylinders in the face of growing numbers of people contracting the coronavirus.
Pharmacies across the North are dealing with a shortage of the cylinders which are used by patients with chronic respiratory conditions and in end-of-life care.
Michael Cooper, from Cooper’s Pharmacy, said that the shortage was creating a “national emergency situation” as Covid-19 continues to spread.
“There might be some instances where a person has used oxygen or has finished the course, and for whatever reason there might be an empty cylinder in a back room or garage,” he said.
“There is probably going to be a huge additional demand for oxygen cylinders in the days, weeks, and months ahead as we battle the Covid-19 pandemic."
The Andersonstown chemist says the availability of an oxygen tank could make the difference between life and death for someone who contracts Covid-19.
“One of the major problems with respect to Covid-19 and Coronavirus is that it is a respiratory illness with pneumonia-like symptoms. It has a definite effect in attacking the lungs and the bronchials, so it’s crucial that we have as many oxygen cylinders as possible in order to provide for patients effectively in the community.”
Mr Cooper said the shortfall means pharmacy currently cannot order additional oxygen cylinders.
“When we place an order we need empty cylinders in order to receive oxygen,” he explained.
“It’s a one in one out policy at the minute, which is untenable if there is a huge upsurge in predicted use.
“The patients that are going to be availing of there are the most vulnerable members of our society.
He added: “It’s could possibly be one of those things that people might feel slightly embarrassed that they have them, but I would implore those patients not to worry at all about that.
"This is a national emergency situation and we need to avail of all the resources that we have.”
To arrange the return of oxygen cylinders contact Cooper’s Pharmacy on 02890602500.
Anyone who wishes to return cylinders anonymously can do so, but must first contact the pharmacy.