Four corporate houses based in Chattogram have expressed willingness to extend their free oxygen supply support to Covid-19 patients and hospitals at border districts.
In a bid to ease the strain on oxygen supply, the four companies have been supplying oxygen to hospitals and patients for free in several districts, like Chattogram, Cox's Bazar, Feni, Cumilla, and Sylhet since the middle of last year.
The four business conglomerates -- Mostafa-Hakim Group, Abul Khair Group, GPH Ispat and Master Group -- have pledged to provide the support as long as the pandemic lasts.
So far, they have distributed 12,000 cylinders to 35 private and government hospitals. During March-April this year, when the infections surged, they were refilling around 700 oxygen cylinders free of cost every day.
Now, the companies are refilling around 600 oxygen cylinders free of cost daily as the demand has gradually decreased after Eid.
Contacted, Nazmul Islam, head of GPH Ispat's oxygen plant, told The Daily Star that the demand for oxygen decreased in Chattogram and surrounding districts.
"However, coronavirus infections have increased in several districts, including Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi, during this period. We have talked to the officials concerned in these districts. They said there was no oxygen crisis. If they want, we can help hospitals of those areas with free oxygen cylinders," he said.
Nazmul added that they distributed more than 1,000 oxygen cylinders to different hospitals and refill about 100 cylinders every day.
GPH Ispat produces 220 tonnes of oxygen and 22-25 tonnes of liquid oxygen at its air separation plant daily, he added.
Abul Khair Group, another corporate giant of the port city, has provided 10,000 cylinders for free since May last year. The company also refills over 400 oxygen cylinders every day at its oxygen plant, which produces around 20 tonnes of oxygen in liquid form daily.
Imrul Qader Bhuinya, senior manager of an Abul Khair Steel plant in Shitolpur, told this paper that they were regularly supplying oxygen to 25 hospitals.
"If any private or government hospital needs oxygen anywhere in the country, we will happily comply," he said yesterday.
Mostafa-Hakim Group distributed 1,000 cylinders and has created a network with 15 centres in Chattogram city to distribute oxygen to people in need.
Sarwer Alam, a director of Mostafa-Hakim Group, told this correspondent that they have started providing free oxygen to hospitals since the beginning of May last year.
"We are also refilling empty cylinders if anyone needs oxygen for a sick patient. On average, we refill 70-80 cylinders every day," he said, adding that they would supply oxygen to patients and hospitals in need around the country.
Managing Director of Master Group Shible Sabbir told The Daily Star, "Mostly, we produce industrial grade oxygen, but during the pandemic we also produced medical grade oxygen. Before the pandemic, we used to sell the oxygen to private suppliers. But we are now distributing it only to hospitals and patients."
He said they have provided oxygen cylinders to at least 3,000 people through a Facebook group and have been refilling 20-30 a day. The recipients are from various places in the country, said Shible Sabbir, adding that they are willing to supply to anyone in need anywhere in the country.
Rezaul Karim Azad, treasurer of Chattogram Maa-O-Shishu Hospital, told this paper, "We are getting oxygen support from Mostafa-Hakim, GPH Ispat, Abul Khair and Master Group when the demand increases."
Sheikh Fazle Rabbi, civil surgeon of Chattogram said, "Recently, the number of Covid-19 patients has increased in the country but there is no shortage of oxygen anywhere. An important contribution behind this is that some big corporate groups and several social organisations are providing free oxygen services.
"Hospitals in Chattogram district are getting oxygen as soon as they are asking for it from these business groups."