Uganda begs neighbours for Oxygen

Uganda is looking for support with oxygen supplies from the neighbouring countries as the number of people in need of oxygen continues to increase at the various health facilities across the country. Currently, there are 950 people admitted with COVID-19, many of them in dire need of oxygen support.

Dr. Monica Musenero, the newly appointed Minister in charge of Science, Technology and Innovation told URN on Wednesday that the government is considering an appeal to save the lives of those Ugandans whose only hope is dependent on the availability of oxygen.

Musenero was speaking just after the Ministry of Health announced that up to 49 people succumbed to COVID-19 in its latest test results conducted on Monday. According to the Ministry, the deaths are partly due to people’s self-medication with oxygen.

“We are seeking help, and there will be an official channels communication to the neighbouring countries to support Uganda through this peak with a high oxygen demand,” Musenero said.

Musenero also warned against the use oxygen which she blamed for the spike in the COVID-19 deaths.

The ministry also reported that of the 7,238 samples tested, 1,110 people tested positive for the viral respiratory disease in a wave that has put a major strain on the health system.

In Mulago Specialised National Referral hospital where the majority of the critical cases are being treated, David Nuwamanya, the Principal Administrator said they don’t have enough oxygen supplies to cover the bulging numbers and have since opted to supplement their supplies with cylinders from private providers.

The hospital, he said is now quickly constructing a new oxygen plant that should start operating by next week. This is expected to provide an additional 1000 litres of oxygen per hour to supplement the 2083 litres per hour being produced now by the four plants already existent in the hospital.

On his part, Dr. Byarugaba Baterana, the Executive Director of Mulago Hospital said that patients who are brought to the hospital with severe COVID-19 arrive late that even oxygen therapy cannot do much to prevent them from dying.

However, as the pressure on health facilities is piling, sections of people are opting to use oxygen from their homes something that Byarugaba says is only a death sentence.

Refuting claims that the hospital was offering cylinders for some big wigs in government for treatment at home, Byarugaba said, by the time one requires treatment with oxygen, it means they are critical and should run to the nearest health facility.

However, while it’s not clear how much oxygen the country requires to fully meet its demand, Mulago hospital administrator says for now they are looking at hitting a target of having a supply of 4000litres per hour. This too can only be enough if the numbers of critical cases don’t continue going up.

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