Hospitals in oxygen crisis

A critical shortage of oxygen has hit major hospitals in the country paralyzing theatre operations and has resulted into reduced number of operations which are currently restricted to emergency cases only.

Other affected hospitals included Livingstone General Hospital in Southern Province which could not carry out normal operations served for emergency cases only with some theaters reserving oxygen using outdated medical paraphernalia such as gas cylinders.

According to sources at the hospital, the trend was also true of other major hospitals around the country which were operating below capacity due to shortage of oxygen and sterile equipment.

Information reaching the Daily nation has confirmed that various hospitals were experiencing massive shortage of theatre utensils especially in Eastern, Western and Central Province where scheduled operations have been postponed to future dates in an effort to preserve the little lifesaving gas available for emergency operations only.

The sources explained that the few operations taking place in the theatres were in maternity cases and anticipated road traffic accidents as those were termed as life or death operations while scheduled operations were pushed to later dates.

And the workers said even the so called ‘emergency cases’ could only be allowed with authorization from senior doctors in order to maintain a flow of operations based on the available oxygen in hospitals.

The source also said other hospitals especially those off the line of rail were experiencing shortages of particularly sterile equipment which made surgical operations impossible to perform.

They said some hospitals had not received new equipment for a long time and wondered how long scheduled operations would have to be postponed, a situation which resulted in agonizing pain due to worsening conditions for some patients on the waiting list.

And University Teaching Hospital (UTH) managing director Dr Lackson Kasonka said the newly acquired oxygen plant meant to replace the old unit at the facility was only being used to fill up gas cylinders which were being used in the wards.

Dr Kasonka said the old supply line of the oxygen plant could not be synchronized with the new plant because most of the pipes were suspected to have developed leakages within the system.

“Oxygen demands are enormous so we cannot do without cylinders in the hospital. The old supply system does not provide for some sections of the hospital, due to the geography of the premises. The new plant is now used to fill cylinders which are transported to supply those areas the old pipes are not reaching,” Dr Kasonka said.He explained that the new plant could not be used to supply the hospital directly to avoid excessive pressure on the equipment, but instead was being used for filing cylinders for ambulance services.


“We have actually realized that we need both the new and old plants operating including the gas cylinders to supply the oxygen like pediatric wards and the out-patient departments, but we have no problems,” he said.