The oxygen production centre at Felege Hiwot Referral Hospital in Bahir Dar can produce 120 cylinders of medical oxygen per day.

Two medical oxygen production plants, built at a cost of 2.5 million dollars, were inaugurated on April 4, 2019 in Amhara Regional State in Dessie and Bahir Dar. The facility in Bahir Dar is expected to serve seven hospitals in the western Gojjam Zone.

The project took two years to complete and was financed by GE Foundation, Grand Challenge Canada and the Amhara Region Health Bureau. The inauguration ceremony was attended by  President Sahle-work Zewde; Amir Aman (MD), minister of Heath; and Ambachew Mekonnen (PhD), president of the Amhara Regional State.

The US-based, more than century-old philanthropic organisation, GE Foundation, contributed 1.7 million dollars used to procure machines and trucks as part of its Safe Surgery 2020 Initiative program launched four years ago.

While Grand Challenges Canada contributed 750,000 dollars to train operators at the centre, the Bureau financed the construction of internal facilities where the machines are housed.

The oxygen production centre at Felege Hiwot Referral Hospital in Bahir Dar can produce 120 cylinders of medical oxygen per day.

Dalberg Advisors, a consulting firm, trained 17 biomedical engineers last January on how to operate the machines and seven were hired following the training.

"We have been working since February to produce 30 to 40 cylinders a day,” said Sintayehu Kelemu, one of the trainees now working at the Bahir Dar plant inside the premises of Felege Hiwot Hospital.

Felege Hiwot Hospital purchases oxygen tanks at an average cost of 380 Br each when purchased from Abaymado Oxygen Production or Chora Gas & Chemical Products Factory.

Although tariffs have not been established, the hospital is bound to be able to save on transportation costs, according to Shegaw Maru (MD), medical director of the Hospital.

The new medical oxygen production plants, capable of producing 120 cylinders of oxygen a day when fully operational, bring the total number of such facilities in Ethiopia to six out of a total target of 13 planned to be built by September 2020, according to the Ministry of Health.

The other medical oxygen production centres are located in Hayder Referral Hospital in Meqelle, Jimma University Hospital, St. Paul's Hospital and Hawassa University Hospital.

The plants will start full operation once issues dealing with human resources, maintenance and electrical work are resolved, according to Abebaw Gebeyehu (MD), head of the Bureau.

Medical oxygen is critical in providing proper medical services, especially during surgeries and childbirth and for critical conditions, according to Tadele Bogale(MD), who was project leader for safe surgery from 2016 to 2018.

"Some patients that could be operated an in the region are forced to travel to Addis Abeba simply because of a lack of medical oxygen,” Tadelle said.

The level of purity for medical oxygen is higher than that in industrial oxygen, Tadele added.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 06,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 988]

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