What you need to know:
- The breakdown that has hampered oxygen generation and supply occurred amid rising numbers of Covid-19 patients who require emergency care.
An oxygen crisis has hit Vihiga County after a Sh30 million plant launched slightly over a month ago broke down, in what officials blamed on power supply challenges at the county referral hospital in Mbale town.
The breakdown that has hampered oxygen generation and supply occurred amid rising numbers of Covid-19 patients who require emergency care.
This happened as counties in the Lake region, currently under a partial lockdown, moved to scale up their oxygen supply to be able to efficiently attend to the Covid-19 situation.
Vihiga neighbours Kisumu, Kakamega, Siaya, Busia and Nandi counties, with Kisumu and Kakamega recording high numbers of Covid-19 cases and also experiencing oxygen shortages.
Amid the oxygen crisis in Vihiga, the county’s acting health minister Prof Inonda Mwanje has further revealed the county government has run out of Covid-19 testing kits, further slowing down efforts to reach most locals.
Prof Mwanje said the local government has reached out to the national government to supply it with more kits, even as the county makes plans to procure testing kits.
In Vihiga County, 10 Covid-19 patients are currently admitted at the county referral hospital while 64 are on home based isolation care.
Out of the 60 deaths recorded in the county since the pandemic struck in March 2020, 14 have been recorded from June to date.
No patient is currently admitted in the five-bed ICU that was launched in May this year to offer emergency treatment.
Prof Mwanje, while confirming the oxygen crisis, said the devolved unit is now forced to procure oxygen to meet the daily demand of seven cylinders amid lack of enough cylinders to store the vital health commodity.
The plant, procured from France, is designed to produce 300 litres of oxygen per minute. It was launched on May 20 this year to boost emergency treatment in the county and reduce the turnaround time in attending to patients.
Prof Mwanje noted that the devolved unit is now forced to procure oxygen from the neighboring counties, but said the same is further being hampered by lack of enough cylinders to store the oxygen.
Up to seven cylinders of oxygen are required to meet the daily need at the county referral hospital, the acting Health CEC said.
Governor Wilber Ottichilo launched the oxygen plant together with the Sh27 million five-bed ICU on May 20.
At the time, the governor said the two vital units will boost emergency health services in the county.
It was then that the county boss said health facilities in the county required 800 litres of oxygen every week.
Piping has been done to the wards to enhance oxygen supply at the county referral hospital.
Both the oxygen plant and the ICU were set up using part of the Sh60.8 million Covid-19 grant received from the national government last year.
"Vihiga County Referral Hospital has been making referrals of at least three patients every week. This (unit) will be a relief since patients who needed the critical services had to seek the services in either Eldoret or Nairobi," Dr Ottichilo said on May 20.
Speaking at Jumuia Mission Hospital in Hamisi sub-county, the official said Governor Ottichilo's administration has reached out to Kenya Power to install a new transformer so that oxygen generation resumes.
"For now, we are buying oxygen from outside but this is not helping us meet our daily demand. We lack enough oxygen cylinders too," said Prof Mwanje.
He added: "Statistics have shown we need to use up to seven cylinders in a day but we only have a few cylinders."