As the crisis in Ukraine persists, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the country is currently running dangerously low on its supplies of medical oxygen – essential for treating a range of conditions from Covid-19 to pneumonia, sepsis and COPD to pregnancy complications and childbirth.

Due to the inability of trucks to transport oxygen supplies from plants to hospitals across Ukraine, hospitals across the country could exhaust oxygen reserves within 24 hours, with some already having run out. 

The threat of continuous electricity and power shortages could also result in heightened risk for patients as critical hospital services are likely to be impacted. 

Shortages are being compounded by a scarcity of zeolite – a key mineral used to separate gases when generating oxygen through pressure-swing adsorption (PSA) systems. 

Oxygen concentrators use molecular sieves composed by zeolites to adsorb atmospheric nitrogen before it’s vented, leaving oxygen as the primary remaining gas.

Having scaled-up oxygen therapy capacity for severely ill patients in Ukraine during the Covid-19 pandemic, WHO could see the current crisis derailing the progress made thus far. 

gasworld’s Business Intelligence department - recently cited in Forbes - revealed that Ukraine’s medical oxygen demand more than doubled during the pandemic, increasing from between 140 - 150 metric tonnes per day to 350 - 380 metric tonnes per day. 

The country’s usual unaffected rate of production stands at between 450 and 460 metric tonnes per day. Along with Ukrainian health authorities, WHO has identified an approximate 20-25% increase over previous pre-crisis medical oxygen needs. 

The organisation is currently working with partners to establish safe transmit for shipments through Poland.

Revealed in an unrelated post on his personal LinkedIn account, Dr. Eric Schulze, Managing Director, Linde Gaz Polska bei Linde - the Ukrainian arm of global industrial gas giant Linde - stated that the company has helped alleviate the shortfall after delivering today (28th February) 50 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen from its Ukrainian plants to hospitals across the country. 

Commenting on the effort, Schulze said, “I can’t find words to describe how proud I am of the team to keep the supply up-and-running where it is possible these days.” 

In recognition of the need for medical oxygen, Schulze added that the company is temporarily providing medical oxygen for its hospital customers in Ukraine for free. 

Internationally condemned for its part in the crisis, Russia has been hit by numerous sanctions and is set to face further restrictions. 

Calling for companies to ‘go beyond the sanctions’, European medical oxygen specialist Oxymat has frozen its Russia and Belarus accounts ‘immediately’, along with €1.5m in its order books. 

Mainly consisting of oxygen generators to be supplied to hospitals, Oxymat’s restrictions include a ban on providing spare parts and services to both accounts. 

“The decision to freeze medical deliveries is based upon Oxymat’s evaluation of availability of medical oxygen in Russia and Belarus,” said Jesper Bo Sjögren, Founder/Owner, Oxymat Group.

“Should a new pandemic situation occur, we are willing to evaluate this part of the ban.”