Africa-Press – Malawi. Minister of Health, Khumbize Chiponda has said the commissioning of a gas plant at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe will help reduce deaths because KCH and surrounding hospitals will have access to oxygen at all times.
The minister made the remarks on Tuesday during the commissioning of the equipment held at KCH premises, a development she said will help the hospital save over K300 million per year.
Chiponda said there have been a lot of challenges that the hospital has been facing in terms of treating patients who need oxygen.
She said: “Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital has been facing problems, especially in the months of June and July because there were many cases and a patient needed about three cylinders, which was about K180, 000 per day, just to sustain them.”
“Today, we have commissioned our own oxygen plant which is supplying straight to the wards but also apart from that, it is also filling the oxygen cylinders meaning that we can even supply cylinders to other district hospitals, which is a benefit to the whole country.”
The minister then said the installation of the gas plant will not just help fight COVID-19 but also help all patients that have respiratory issues. They will be getting it directly without waiting for it to be purchased.
As a ministry, Chiponda said they are concerned that they have lost a lot of equipment because there is no one to service and maintain them whenever there is a problem but now, they have put some initiatives to make sure that the equipment is taken care of.
“We have made a policy that whatever equipment we get, the one who supplied will be entitled to service it and in this case, the supplier for the gas plant has already identified the company that will be servicing and maintaining it whenever there is a problem,” she said.
KCH’s Director, Dr Jonathan Ngoma stated that the hospital receives a lot of patients and a lot of them need oxygen.
However, he said the capacity to have enough oxygen was very low and expensive but now with the gas plant, it will be easy for them to treat such patients and help in their survival.
He promised to ensure that the equipment is taken care of, saying they have put in place measures so that people should not vandalize and steal some materials.
“We were using about K30 million per month, we used to buy the gas from Blantyre and sometimes we would run out of oxygen because it had been delayed. This led to many people dying,” he said.
He said now the hospital would be saving money to be used for other purposes and that patients would be receiving the needed treatment on time.
On his part, UNICEF’s Country Representative, Rudolf Schwenk said during the COVID-19 crisis, it was important to have quick response together with government and they noticed that oxygen was very critical to COVID patients.
He said that was why they decided to partner with others and facilitated the installation of the gas plant.
“This development will help Malawi as we continue to have strong and central health services.
“The gas plant is very powerful and can produce a lot of litres (of oxygen) in a day. These can be distributed to other hospitals, hence reducing the deaths that would have occurred due to shortage of oxygen at the hospital and surrounding health facilities,” added Schwenk.
The Ministry of Health procured the gas plant from South Africa and transportation of the plant has cost over 250 000 US Dollars funded by UKAID through UNICEF while renovation of the room where the gas plant is installed has cost over 160 000 US dollars funded by GAVI and DFID.
The ministry received assistant from UNICEF, DFID, GAVI, FCDO and Global Fund among other donors for the project to be finalised.