Coronavirus: Priests in Peru fund oxygen plant to meet shortage

Lima, Peru, May 7, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- Two priests in a rural area of Peru aimed to fight the coronavirus pandemic by finding a way to supply oxygen tanks, much needed for medical treatment, to their region.

The recent death of two doctors from coronavirus in Iquitos, Peru, underscored the hard-hit region’s shortage of medical equipment and medications. Both doctors died because of the lack of oxygen to treat them.

The Medical Corps of Hospital III of Iquitos and the Medical College of Peru said in a joint statement last month that there is a shortage of medications in the Loreto region, and its capital Iquitos is "one of the cities hardest hit by the infection."

“We don’t have medications” to treat coronavirus patients and “not enough oxygen tanks, pressure gauges and refilled tanks,” they reported.

One doctor was in intensive care at Loreto Regional Hospital and the other at a hospital under the country’s universal health insurance program, both in Iquitos, the Medical College of Peru said on social media.

Fr. Raymond Portelli, a parish pastor in Iquitos, along with the diocesan administrator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Iquitos, Fr. Miguel Fuertes, decided to start a fundraising campaign to acquire an oxygen plant for the city.

Portelli himself is a doctor caring for COVID-19 patients.

To purchase the machinery, they needed to raise about $118,000.

The city does have an oxygen plant, but it only produces between 100 and 160 tanks a day. The dean of the Medical College of Peru, Miguel Palacios, told local media that quantity is not enough and that current production would need to be tripled.

The priests’ campaign was launched the morning of May 3 on social media, and in less than a day, they had raised about $300,000.

Both priests thanked contributors, and said that thanks to the amount collected, a “high capacity” plant could be purchased for Iquitos.

Portelli added that Fuentes is currently in Lima coordinating with a specialist for the acquisition of the plant.

“Pray a lot that this work can be accomplished quickly. May God bless all who have contributed. We hope to continue to cover all the expenses,” he added.

This story was first published by CNA's Spanish-language news partner, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.


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