IDL-Reporteros, which has been in the vanguard of investigative journalism in Peru, published last week an article which shows how bureaucratic barriers, seemingly linked to vested interests, are creating obstacles to the development and use of technologies for helping patients keep alive during the pandemic.

As we have mentioned, engineers at the Catholic University (PUCP) have been involved in building plant to produce the oxygen required to treat Covid patients. One of the places where those patients are dying very painfully for lack of oxygen is in Junín region. The cardinal archbishop of Huancayo, Pedro Barreto, is among those seeking to acquire the plant developed at the PUCP to help patients at the state hospitals in Huancayo and Jauja.

However, administrators at the health ministry are blocking their use in public hospitals ostensibly because the plant in question works with the use of oil lubricated compressors. Most of the plant in use in Peru works using this technology which experts claim is completely safe from the patients’ point of view. The ministry has issued a resolution that forbids the use of the PUCP plant in state-run hospitals.

Meanwhile, at La Oroya, Praxair (subsidiary of Linde), the company which has a virtual monopoly over imports of oxygen into Peru has two substantial plants capable of producing oxygen on a large scale but currently inoperative. They are not being brought into production because it is allegedly uneconomic to do so. Technicians working in Junín say this is not the case. Praxair is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of industrial gases.

The implication here is that the health ministry prefers to rely on imported supplies of oxygen and, indeed, most forms of medical equipment. IDL-Reporteros quotes Lida Hildebrandt, head of the unit that certifies medical equipment: “Peru is a country highly accustomed to importing. What does this mean? That 98% of bio-medical articles are imported. Only 2% are manufactured in Peru. What this pandemic has done is to provide incentives to [Peruvian] researchers [in this area]”.

Notwithstanding the health ministry’s stance, we have it on good authority that Barreto is preparing to airlift the PUCP plant to Huancayo and Jauja this weekend.