Health Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe, has said that the country is facing an oxygen crisis in the hospitals due to lack of oxygen gas cylinders as the Covid-19 infections and fatalities continue to rise.
He called on Kenyans who are hoarding the much-needed cylinders to immediately release them to the government and avert the looming crisis.
“There are about 20,000 oxygen cylinders out there in homes and other institutions which are required back in the industry immediately. I appeal to all Kenyans to return oxygen cylinders immediately so that companies can use them to supply oxygen to hospitals,” he said.
Speaking to the press, CS Kagwe revealed there is a serious shortage of cylinders and the high cost of purchasing the few remaining in the market.
Medical Oxygen Cylinder used to supply medical oxygen that is high purity oxygen. It is used for medical treatments at Medical facilities or at home.
“These cylinders are expensive and the international market is currently squeezed. Supply is a problem. Each cylinder costs about Ksh. 40,000. To replace them would require a lot of money. It is an offence to keep the cylinders when we have asked for them under the Public Health Act,” said CS Kagwe.
According to the Health CS, the country has approximately 70 oxygen plants with some of them having broken down and in need of repairs.
Kagwe further stated that the government was yet to find spare parts for some of the plants.
“For example, the oxygen plant at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) was supplied by the then Slovakian Republic. The country itself does not exist, so how can they even begin repairing that plant,” said Kagwe.
He further cautioned that the industry was completely stretched.
“Last year the total production and requirement for the industry were about 410 tonnes. Around January, this quickly went up to about 560 tonnes. We are now heading to a demand of 880 tonnes which is double what we started with,” he said.
Kagwe urged both the county and national government hospitals to fast-track the setting up of oxygen piping infrastructure in the wards to avoid situations where a single oxygen gas cylinder is used to take care of one patient at a time.
The Ministry of Health is in talks National Treasury to have taxes exempted for the supply of oxygen gas cylinders.
“We are working with the National Treasury at this moment because of the emergency nature of the requirement for oxygen to see whether we can increase the supply of oxygen cylinders via reduction of some taxes. We are also going to work with the Pharmacy & Poisons Board to fast track certification of gas suppliers keeping in mind the quality,” said Kagwe.
Family and friends gather for the burial of Kenya’s first medic victim of Covid-19 Dr Doreen Adisa Lugaliki at Ndalu village, Tongaren sub-county in Bungoma County.