Our attention is drawn to the article that appeared in the daily monitor of June 17th 2021 titled “Oxygen failure kills 30 patients in Mulago”.
In the article it is alleged that in the night of Tuesday the 15th of June 2021, the facility’s oxygen supply malfunctioned resulting into the death of 30 patients. The facts are that over a 24 hour period from Monday to Tuesday, the hospital sadly, lost a total of 17 patients in the COVID Treatment Unit. These deaths were not related to oxygen supply but rather the severity of disease resulting into multiple organ failure. A total number of 7 were from intensive care unit and the rest were from High Dependency Unit. It is important for the public to note that patients admitted to Mulago ICU and HDU are referrals from other hospitals and are very sick with multi organ failure requiring multiple medical interventions including oxygen therapy.
On the same day alone 41 patients were admitted and 19 discharged
Indeed in the night of Tuesday, there were more than 170 patients on oxygen, most of whom are now presenting positive outcomes. This would not have been possible if there was oxygen outage as alleged by the article.
In non COVID wards, patients’ oxygen is mainly supplied by the oxygen plant through the piped network through the wall point. These patients normally consume between 1 to 10 liters per minute which is not the case of COVID patients whose consumption can go up to 70 liters per minute. Majority of the patients who are not on non-invasive mechanical ventilation consume above 20 liters per minute while those on ventilation go above 70 liters per minute. To attain this level of supply, the wall oxygen is supplemented with cylinders on the same patient. This buffers the patient from any shortages on any of the two sources of oxygen.
The article further alleges that at 10:00pm the facility run out of oxygen triggering panic among health workers, patients and their attendants. This is not correct as explained since any drop from the wall oxygen would be supplemented by the supply from cylinders.
The article alleges many cases of death in ICU for COVID 19 patients are due to faulty oxygen supply. This is not correct at all. Currently, Mulago National Referral Hospital has four fully functioning plants that supply the COVID treatment Unit. In addition, the hospital has two other plants that are being up graded to supply other parts of the hospital. The four plants have installed production capacity of 2083 liters of oxygen per minute. However due to increased demand for oxygen the plant now runs at 2,999 litres per minute and this sometimes lowers the pressure in some units especially ICU at peak hours of consumption. To mitigate this drop, the supply is supplemented by use of oxygen cylinders.
We wish to thank our partners for their support in refilling the cylinders i.e. Steel and Tube industries, Roofings and Oxygas. It is important to note the hospital uses over 100 cylinders per day and with the support of the partners, supply has been regular even amidst the increased demand.
The hospital is in the process of installing a new oxygen plant in two weeks’ time that will generate 70M3 (1,166 liters per minute) and this will supplement the current supply to meet increasing demand due to a rise in Covid 19 cases.
At this stage of the pandemic, we wish to call upon all stakeholders including Daily Monitor to support the efforts aimed at fighting the disease. It is not appropriate for the reporter to write inaccurate information which might cause panic in public and also demoralize frontline health workers who are doing all they can to save lives.
Finally, we wish to inform the public that COVID-19 does not exert pressure on oxygen supply alone but other resources as well. We therefore call upon all Ugandans to adopt preventive measures through observance of SOPs in order to reduce the number of patients seeking hospitalization.