As health facilities in the country face overwhelming demand for oxygen due to rising cases of Covid-19 countrywide, Taita Taveta county government is racing against time to ensure stable supply to its hospitals.
Shortage of oxygen has resulted in some patients succumbing due to lack of respiratory support.
Oxygen is listed by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) as essential in the fight against the deadly virus.
The county government has already constructed a Sh14 million oxygen plant at the Moi County Referral Hospital in Voi.
The plant is expected to supply medical oxygen to the referral hospital, the Mwatate sub-county hospital, the Mwatate Covid-19 centre and ICU unit, which are under construction, Taveta and Wesu sub-county hospital, among other health facilities across the region.
Last week, Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mutahi Kagwe announced that the Ministry will support the referral hospital’s oxygen plant project with additional financing from the World Bank.
The government announced that it will not approve new facilities in the country if county governments fail to install piped systems of oxygen to ensure that their hospitals have limitless supply of the important life-saving commodity.
Many hospitals in Taita Taveta County do not have piped oxygen, a situation that has put the lives of many patients at risk.
The county has been procuring oxygen from BOC Limited. Once its plant is active, the county expected to cut frequent trips to Mombasa where it gets its supply.
The county department of Health spends millions of shillings a month to buy oxygen and rent cylinders from gas manufacturers.
The county’s health facilities use up to 40 cylinders a week, especially when the hospitals are full.
The new plant can produce 212,400 litres of oxygen in 24 hours and is expected to be fully operational before the end of this financial year.
County executive for Health John Mwakima said they have already done piping at the male ward in Moi referral, the Mwatate ICU facility and the Taveta isolation ward.
"We have plans to extend the piping to other facilities but we are looking for funds first," he said.
Speaking at Moi County Referral Hospital, deputy governor Majala Mlaghui said the oxygen will help Covid-19 patients who need support with their breathing to stay alive.
"We have piped oxygen in two of the isolation wards to ensure uninterrupted supply and meet the demand by Covid-19 patients," she said.
She said the project was part of the county government's agenda of strengthening and improving health service provision to the residents.