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New hospitals must have piped oxygen, says Kagwe

By People Daily
Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe when he visited Mwatate Sub-County Hospital in Taita Taveta county to inspect facilities and Covid preparedness. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary
    • The unfolding nightmare in countries like India is a terrifying reminder of the capricious nature of Covid-19 and its infections patterns.
    • With such a view in mind, the government has ramped up efforts to strengthen the health system in counties. This involves enhancing the oxygen manufacturing capacity for hospitals.
    • Already, the ministry and development partners have identified 86 health facilities in 30 counties for this initiative. USAid will support five hospitals.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has directed that no construction for health facilities will be approved without incorporating piped oxygen in the plans.

The ministry says demand for oxygen has been on an upward spiral since the Coronavirus outbreak in March last year. 

Early last year, daily oxygen demand was at 410 tonnes and by January, the demand had shot to 560 tonnes and 880 tonnes in March.

There is likelihood that this demand will increase and, therefore, there is urgent need to have a robust system in place to address the oxygen scarcity.

To manage such risks, the Health ministry has introduced a policy that puts provision for piped oxygen as a mandatory requirement before approval of construction plans for health facilities across the country.

Policy will be adopted as part of a long-term plan to effectively manage sudden widespread surge of Covid-19 through maximisation of oxygen use by patients in need of supplemental oxygen and cushion healthcare system against being overwhelmed.

“We are moving away from having a single patient-single cylinder scenario. With a piped system, a single cylinder can serve several patients. 

This is a more effective and safer way, and therefore piped oxygen must be a requirement for hospitals,” he said.

The CS was speaking after touring an oxygen generating plant at Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi, Taita Taveta county last week.  

The hospital has already installed a piped oxygen system in two wards and is already in use by patients.

 The piped-oxygen requirement is viewed as a precautionary measure to address a scenario where the country might find herself with a huge number of patients requiring oxygen. 

With almost 40 per cent of the country’s 50,000 oxygen cylinders being kept in homes, the threat of hospitals running out of oxygen looms large.

Sobering reminder

In countries that have suffered a surge of Covid-19 infections, oxygen has been a most sought after commodity for hospitals. 

From Italy to India, heart-wrenching scenes of patients in hospital beds with nasal cannulas stuck on their nostrils and others with oxygen masks have become too common.  

That such countries, with their significantly robust health systems could eventually be overwhelmed by the large number of patients is a sobering reminder of Kenya’s precarious situation.

Even as the policy is being implemented, the CS called out to counties to make plans for tackling Covid-19 with the worst-case scenario in mind.

He explained that essential supplies like oxygen, drugs and beds should be factored in with anticipation of the worst that can happen.

“Your planning for Covid-19 in hospitals should have the worst-case scenario in mind,” said the CS.

Worst-case scenario implies measures that hospitals can tap for management and treatment of unprecedented surge in Covid-19 infections. 

According to the ministry, the final goal is to have all counties being oxygen-self-sufficient.

The government is also working on locally manufacturing Covid-19 vaccine and other essential drugs to cut off dependency on foreign aid.  - KNA

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