[News] Cuba: One of the Few Countries Worldwide That Manufacture Its Own Medical Oxygen

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Wed Sep 8 12:35:23 EDT 2021

One of the Few Countries Worldwide That Manufacture Its Own Medical OxygenBy
Alejandra Garcia on September 7, 2021 from Havana


Oxicuba S.A. oxygen plant, photo: Revolution Studio

In mid-August, a piece of news shook Cuba: medical oxygen coverage began to
be limited in health centers due to a breakdown in the country’s main
production plant.

It was the first time during the pandemic that the island was going through
such a situation. Cuba has been producing its own oxygen for decades. In
fact, it is one of the few countries in the world that has its own plant to
supply hospitals, health centers, industries, and other institutions.

Fidel Castro had foresight. The OxiCuba S.A. plant was created on the
island on October 3, 1965, just a few years after the revolutionary triumph
of 1959. Since then, the factory has been supplying every corner of the
country, from Guantanamo Province to the Isle of Youth.

In the middle of the health contingency, most countries in the world were
forced to import oxygen. Building a liquid oxygen plant is extremely
expensive, especially for low-income nations.

The pandemic caught many governments off guard. It is highly unlikely for a
government to build an oxygen plant for medical use alone, due to the
complexity of the production and its transportation, distribution, and
storage system. That is why, when the number of contagions soared around
the world, many health systems collapsed due to the lack of this essential

This did not happen in Cuba, where not a single Covid-19 patient lacked a
bottle of oxygen in the Intensive Care Units (ICU).

Even so, after a year and a half of pandemic, the circulation of more
contagious and deadly strains of the disease has complicated the
epidemiological scenario on the island. Since mid-year, more than 6,000
cases have been reported daily, which has increased the demand for oxygen.

This coincided with another reality: the industry has not stopped for a
moment for more than a year, even when the machinery needs periods of
recession for maintenance work.

A few months ago, the industrial gases plant Oxicuba S.A., located in the
Havana municipality of Cotorro, suffered a major breakdown. The rupture of
a key part left the plant inoperative.

The country tried to get by with its reserve while juggling to buy new
parts and circumvent the blockade, the damn blockade, which prevents the
island from accessing everything, especially technologies that are
essential to face the pandemic.

The oxygen deficit occurred while Cuba is going through a deep economic
crisis, caused by over six decades of blockade and over one year of the
COVID-19 pandemic. The island faces unprecedented food and medicine
shortages, making it hard for the government to confront COVID-19.

However, the island has the extraordinary ability to achieve the
impossible. Just when the oxygen supply began to run low, Cuba did it
again. With its creativity to face challenges, it managed to acquire the
necessary pieces to set the iron shell in motion.

Last Saturday, the island woke up to hopeful news: “OxiCuba S.A. has made
it,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted, referring to the successful
repair and start-up of the factory that guarantees 95 percent of the
medical oxygen used in the country.

Last week, the Diaz-Canel dialogued with the group of people who made this
feat possible. “Has everything gone well so far?” he asked several times
during the meeting.

“So far so good. We are working tirelessly to get out of this situation
very soon,” Thermoenergetic engineer Guillermo Mendez Pedraza replied… And
so we did.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English
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