The UK Government – through UNICEF – has procured a pressure swing absorption oxygen plant in Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital, to increase the oxygen producing capacity of the 200-bed facility and other lower-level facilities in seven neighbouring districts in central Uganda.
The oxygen plant, installed by UNICEF in February 2022, was unveiled and officially launched by the Ministry of Health.
Globally and in Uganda, the demand for oxygen sharply increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, far exceeding the capacity of oxygen generated in many referral hospitals.
The scarcity led to loss of lives of critically ill patients who depended on oxygen therapy daily to stay alive.
Moreover, oxygen remained a critical treatment for small and sick new-born, children with severe pneumonia and other life-threatening respiratory diseases common among children under five years and mothers with delivery complications.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the ministry of Health with support from UNICEF has been working tirelessly to expand access to life-saving oxygen.
To date, UNICEF has supported a total of three oxygen plants that have been procured and installed in Soroti, Kabale and Masaka regional referral hospitals.
The additional oxygen plant in Kayunga will therefore sustain the hospital oxygen needs as well as cater to those of other health facilities in seven neighbouring districts of Buikwe, Jinja, Kayunga, Kamuli, Luwero, Mukono and Nakasongola through a production of up to 140 cylinders daily.
The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) Director for British High Commission Kampala, Andrew Ockenden, said during the peak of the second wave of COVID-19 Uganda experienced an acute shortage of Oxygen.
“Thanks to the strong partnership between the UK and UNICEF I am pleased that we were able to quickly address this challenge, helping to supply oxygen to 17 hospitals across Uganda and procure a number of oxygen plants. The plant being commissioned today is just one example of the UK’s ongoing commitment to supporting and strengthening health systems across Uganda, helping to save lives and guarantee Uganda’s health security,” he said.
The UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Dr. Munir Safieldin said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the immediate availability of medical oxygen became the defining line between life and death in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs).
“UNICEF and FCDO joined hands to save lives of COVID-19 patients in ICUs by supplying medical oxygen. The good news is that the oxygen plants and oxygen cylinders we supplied were also critical to saving lives of thousands of small and sick babies with breathing difficulties throughout the year,” Safieldin said.
To fully optimise the use of the new oxygen plant, with support from the UK Government, UNICEF is currently installing an oxygen piping system to support distribution and continuous flow of oxygen to critical areas like the paediatric, neonatal, maternity, post-natal and medical wards as well as the operating theatre within Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital.