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New oxygen plant to be commissioned in Nakuru

A new plant with a capacity of processing 2,000 tonnes of oxygen per day is set to be commissioned at the Nakuru Level 5 Teaching and Referral Hospital.

The facility which will supplement the old 1,200 tonnes capacity per day plant at the hospital which is jointly run under the Public-Private Partnerships by Hewa Tele Limited and the devolved unit’s administration will be operational by end of June this year.

Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the Hewa Tele oxygen processing plant was overwhelmed by a rising demand in the county in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

The referral facility serves Nakuru and more than five other neighbouring counties including Baringo, Samburu, Kericho, Narok, Nyandarua and Bomet.

Mr Kinyanjui noted that the old plant was also supplying the oxygen to private facilities in the region.

In a media brief, the Governor said following the outbreak of Covid-19 the Level 5 hospital required an average of 55 to 60 oxygen cylinders of 60 kilogrammes each, every day, an increase from 25 to 30 before the pandemic.

At the hospital, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the High Dependency Unit (HDU), 10 theatres and the maternity wing are supplied with piped oxygen, while the outpatient unit has standby oxygen cylinders.

“The new plant has been designed to more than double Nakuru’s current production of medical oxygen which will be sufficient oxygen for our public and private hospitals.

Even as we build capacity we understand that because of the nature of the disease, it is not enough to have ICUs and ventilators if you do not have oxygen,” stated Mr Kinyanjui.

Nakuru Level 5 Hospital has an automatic oxygen concentrator launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta, under the Managed Equipment Services, in partnership between the county and national governments in 2016.

But since oxygen at the plant is not packaged into cylinders, the management is forced to rely on medical oxygen from Hewa Tele plant.

Mr Kinyanjui observed that health facilities in neighbouring counties were also reporting a worrisome shortage of oxygen.

“The new plant has been equipped with the latest technology. At Hewa Tele we compliment the staff for their dedication and hard work. It is not easy for they are sometimes forced to process oxygen at night to meet the high demand. For example, one cylinder of 60 litres takes an average of 22 minutes to be filled up,” the governor added.

Once commissioned, Nakuru will be the second County to have a high-yielding medical oxygen plant in Kenya after one at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret within Uasin Gishu County.

The Governor added, “The new plant is equipped with a dual system which will ensure an uninterruptible oxygen supply in the event one unit breaks down. Also, when the demand for medical Oxygen is low, one machine can be stalled and this will enhance durability.

One unit can refill 48 oxygen cylinders in 24hrs, which is enough to run a hospital with emergency and theatre services.

Acting Health CEC Dr Immaculate Maina observed that the spike in demand for oxygen by coronavirus cases had a direct impact on other non-corona virus patients and could strain oxygen resources for everyone who relies on it inside and outside medical facilities.

“Oxygen is a key element in response to the pandemic as patients diagnosed with the corona virus might need supplemental oxygen because the infection causes viral pneumonia that paralyses the lungs.

Most Covid-19 patients if you give them oxygen early enough then you stop them from progressing into the most critical stage where they require ventilation,” noted Dr Maina.

Oxygen, which was classified by WHO in 2017 as an essential medicine for the treatment of hypoxemia (low oxygen levels in the blood), was finally listed as such in the 2019 Kenya Essential Medicines List, as one of the six inhalational medicines that should be available from dispensaries level.

By Jane Ngugi and Charloth Chepkemoi 

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