No more oxygen shortages

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…as oxygen generation plants start generation

By Lineo Ramatlapeng

Lesotho Millennium Development Agency (LMDA) Chief Executive Officer Keketso Chalatse said the plant tender was invented in 2017 but was delayed because of some technicalities that included people who wanted to take over and alleged corruption.

Chalatse said they had to dissolve the oxygen generation plant tender process twice and for its tendering to be a success, they had to work hand in glove with the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) every step of the way.

Unfortunately, Chalatse said they were caught off guard by COVID-19 in 2020 and it also set them back, now that everything is complete, the machine that generates oxygen worth approximately M4.8 million and M9.6 million for both plants constructed at the Motebang hospital in Leribe and the and Mafeteng Hospital.

“The plant generates oxygen at its specification 93 percent plus or minus 3, which means the normal range is 93 minus 3 which is 90 and 93 plus 3 which is 96,” said Chalatse.

Chalatse added that the specification is up to standard for hospital use hence called medical oxygen and was approved by World Health Organization (WHO).

On a daily basis, Chalatse said the plant can produce 24 hours when under pressure but 16 hours for normal circumstances and it fills ten (10) 50kg cylinders in 4 hours, which is 40 cylinders in 16 hours.

He said the second stage will be connecting pipes to the wards and the health workers were trained to take a good care of the plant and there will be construction companies that will do maintenance as time goes.

WHO representative Dr Richard Banda said lives have been lost over the past year and some months to COVID-19 and not only is public health at risk but national development can be seriously derailed.

“We are going through a crisis that must be managed with the greatest urgency,” he said.

Despite being a simple intervention, Banda said medical oxygen remains in short supply and the pandemic has made this acute shortage a full-blown emergency.

Installation of the plant is a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19, not only will the plant help with COVID treatment, it will also help to strengthen the country’s health systems beyond COVID including saving lives, said Banda.

“WHO and our partners are doing everything we can to find ways of scaling up therapeutics as much as possible, as fast as possible,” Banda said.

He added that they remain committed to providing the needed relevant and timely health information, and advice and guidance to the government of Lesotho to mitigate COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health has two jobs only, which are preventing diseases and treatment when people get sick, said Minister Samano Sekatle.

With the prevailing pandemic, Sekatle said the best medical care is oxygen and all of it was possible with the influence of Basotho and the government.

“We will be able to fight this pandemic,” he said.

Sekatle pleaded with the government and LMDA to continue to help where they can and that what is needed now is for the oxygen to be in the hospitals not just packaged in cylinders.

He said there should also be a facility that only deals with generating oxygen, to avoid making individual plants.