Supplier comes to the rescue

2013-07-27 00:00

AFROX Healthcare has been approached to avert a crisis looming for the Emergency Medical Rescue Service (EMRS) in KwaZulu-Natal, which is struggling to get vital supplies of oxygen for patient care.

This was the word from Afrox Healthcare head Lerato Mosiah, following allegations by the Democratic Alliance (DA) this week that the KZN Health Department faced a “deadly health crisis” with oxygen shortages at all EMRS bases.

The KZN Health Department and National Treasury have both denied there is a crisis. In March, these two organisations awarded the tender to supply oxygen to Air Liquide Healthcare.

However, Mosiah said Afrox had been approached “to relieve supply pressures facing the EMRS in KZN, which is struggling to obtain medical oxygen supplies”.

“We understand, and can confirm, the situation is such the KZN Department of Health has advised its emergency medical service managers to continue using Afrox to supply its emergency medical services with medical oxygen,” Mosiah said.

National Treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane revealed that there had apparently been concern about the size of the oxygen cylinders delivered, which were incorrect for use in ambulances.

DA provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu alleged that a Verulam woman had died because paramedics did not have oxygen to resuscitate her.

He called on Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo to intervene, claiming an investigation by his party revealed that there had been no deliveries of oxygen cylinders to bases across the province for the past two weeks. This came after the Health Department cancelled the supplier’s contract and did not appoint a new supplier, he claimed.

“This is completely unacceptable and people’s lives are at stake … EMRS staffers who liaised with the DA said oxygen is vital for their profession and no trauma victim can be resuscitated without it,” Mchunu said.

“They told the DA that many are operating on reserves, while some bases in the province have completely run out of stock.”

Health Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said the allegations were “alarmist” and “aimed at scoring political points”.

“The department has changed a supplier, which has resulted in among others, challenges regarding the required supplies. This, however, has not resulted in what can be termed crisis, because the department has contingency plans.

“No ambulance in the province has had to attend to any call or emergency without oxygen. Similarly, no service delivery at all our health care facilities in the province has been adversely impacted upon as a result of the shortage of oxygen,” he said.

He said the department was working with the Treasury to ensure that no oxygen shortages occurred that might impact on service delivery.

Sikhakhane confirmed that the contract to supply gases to KZN was awarded to Air Liquide Healthcare in March, with three-month hand- over period ending on June 30. Afrox was the previous supplier.

“There has been no point at which KwaZulu-Natal did not have a supplier of gases,” Sikhakhane said.

“The Treasury, provincial Department of Health, Afrox and Air Liquide have been working together to ensure a smooth transition.”

Sikhakhane said that according to information from Air Liquide, there is no shortage of oxygen.

However, the EMRS had complained that ambulances need two-kilogram cylinders instead of the one-kilogram cylinders supplied by Air Liquide, Sikhakhane said.

“There is a commitment by Air Liquide to fulfil orders placed for the two-kilogram cylinders by mid- August 2013. National Treasury has been monitoring the implementation since the award of the contract.”

Air Liquide referred questions to the National Treasury.

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