The oxygen plant at Mulago National Referral Hospital, the country’s biggest facility is being stretched to produce more amidst increased demand arising from the surge in COVID-19. The plant has the capacity to produce 2,083 litres of oxygen per minute.
David Nuwamanya, the hospital principal administrator told journalists on Monday that they are now producing 2,999.4 litres per minute, something experts worry compromises the purity of the product, yet at times the ventilators cannot operate effectively with the increased pressure exerted on the machine.
As of Monday morning, the hospital had 180 patients admitted with COVID-19 where 15 were in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the rest in the High Dependency Unit (HDU).
Dr Rosemary Byanyima told URN that majority of the patients need a lot of oxygen that they have had to buy more cylinders from private providers, including Roofings, Oxy gas and the latest being Steel and Tube industries in addition to the piped oxygen.
To meet the current demand without stretching, she says the hospital would need a supply of 4,000 litres of oxygen per minute. But now they are improvising with refilling the cylinders which are also met with hurdles considering that many times when they make an order from the private providers, they are only given half of what they require due to the general increased demand.
Dennis Buteele, an intensive care nurse told URN that unlike the previous wave, most of the patients they are receiving now are not responding to the nasal oxygen which is common in many facilities with cylinders of about 5 litres.
While he notes that there’s no shortage as has been widely reported, the consumption is very high where for some patients, they have had to backup both the oxygen delivered through pipes in the wards and that from the cylinders. The challenge, he says is a lot of patients who have ended up at Mulago arrive late when even oxygen therapy has nothing much to help.
The hospital is now installing a new plant planned to be producing 1,000 litres per minute. Officials at the hospital say it will be ready to use by next week which will give a boost to the already existing four plants.
Acknowledging the dangers of over-stretching production, Nuwamanya says once the new plant starts operating, the production with the old plants will be lowered to 2000 litres per minute to guarantee the purity of the piped gas. But this will only be possible if the hospital doesn’t receive more critical cases even requiring more oxygen than what is being required now.
Already, the Ministry of Health figures is giving red flags considering that the positivity rate with daily tests is high up at 17 percent. Also, the number of asymptomatic cases is hiking now at a 50 percent high from 80 percent of all positive cases.
Currently across the country, 920 people are in admission battling viral respiratory disease. This number has been bulging each day, and experts predict if people don’t comply with the standard operating procedures, more cases will become critical
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