Mon | Feb 6, 2023

KPH, Annotto Bay Hospital to get major oxygen infrastructure

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2022 | 6:13 PM
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton (left), greets Country Representative for USAID, Alex Gainer, during the media launch of the Liquid Medical Oxygen Expansion project at the ministry’s offices in New Kingston today. The Kingston Public and Annotto Bay hospitals will benefit from the undertaking. – Contributed Photo

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton is applauding the efforts of individuals and organisations who have been working to improve Jamaica's health sector.

His commendation follows a US$2 million investment from USAID for the installation of infrastructure to facilitate the use of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LOX) at the Kingston Public and the Annotto Bay hospitals, which will allow oxygen to be piped directly to 190 beds. 

Speaking at the launch of the Liquid Medical Oxygen Expansion project today, Tufton encouraged Jamaicans to support these partnerships which are integral to the health sector's development. 

“We have to ensure that our own institutional arrangement accommodates those partnerships that our own people internally look more warmly to embracing those partnerships,” he said. 

The infrastructural improvement is to be completed in one year and will involve the upgrade of piping infrastructure, the installation of manifolds and equipment to facilitate the usage of LOX, and the installation of fencing and plinth, and cryogenic tanks at the hospitals.  

Under the project, training and technical assistance will also be provided to selected staff in the management and use of LOX at the facility level and engaging with the supplier. It will also include the development of sustainability plans for the continued maintenance of the upgrades received. 

The development follows a 2021 assessment by FH1360's Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EPiC) in 26 countries to determine their potential needs for support using medical liquid oxygen. Fourteen of these countries were chosen to improve their efficiency with how oxygen is supplied, stored and delivered to patients. EPiC will be responsible for implementing the project. 

“It is not just for Jamaica, it is for Jamaicans,” Senior Programme Officer at EpiC, Sue-Ann Wallace Brown, said. “Working closely with the Ministry of Health, we were able to assess the gaps and determine the best use of the funds to provide catalytic support to address the country's oxygen needs.” 

Meanwhile, Country Representative for USAID, Alex Gainer, stressed the importance of having a reliable supply of medical oxygen, especially after observing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic showed the world that having a consistent supply of oxygen is critical to save lives,” he said. “And with COVID-19 still present and with the current surge of non-COVID respiratory illnesses globally, there remains a need for sure that we have a robust and efficient medial liquid oxygen system.” 

Tufton also recollected instances during the pandemic where Jamaica experienced oxygen shortages, describing it as the most vulnerable moments.

“I recall the system was on the brink of collapse where we had to be moving cylinders around because one hospital was running out – they were on their final breath,” he said, adding that the vulnerability was amplified by the fact that the country had a single provider of medical oxygen. 

“I don't think a valuable resource as oxygen should be provided by one source. We need to be able to expand and create some alternatives because lives depend on it, and so we have to find ways to improve the capacity.” 

The minister commended the USAID team for their assessment, expressing that it is also a direction his ministry has been examining internally. 

“The age of our infrastructure doesn't represent the piping infrastructure that is needed in order to provide a more efficient service. We need that infrastructure all the way through to the beds. We have that planned for the new buildings that are going to be developed at Spanish Town, St Ann's Bay, May Pen and a few other areas,” Tufton said.

- Sashana Small 

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