Western Cape ramps up oxygen supply for Covid-19 patients as second wave hits hard

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Oxygen and ventilators are required to treat the respiratory complications associated with Covid-19.
Oxygen and ventilators are required to treat the respiratory complications associated with Covid-19.
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  • Extra medical oxygen is being brought in to the Western Cape to cope with increased demand during the Covid-19 surge. 
  • The province has not run out of oxygen, but it sounded the alarm last week on how many more people need oxygen for their treatment.
  • Head of the Department of Health Dr Keith Cloete said Afrox is bringing in extra oxygen capacity from other provinces.

Extra medical oxygen is being brought into the Western Cape to prevent facilities from running out of oxygen during the surge in Covid-19 cases, which has hit the province hard. 

"We have not run out of medical oxygen," head of the Western Cape Health Department Dr Keith Cloete told News24 in response to claims by some that this was the case.

"Afrox has brought in additional oxygen capacity from other provinces to prevent us from running out of oxygen.

"We have sufficient oxygen for private and public sector hospitals, and are expanding our beds to accommodate more cases," said Cloete.

The province's Health Department is expected to present an update on the Covid-19 crisis on Tuesday at 13:00. 

Increase in hospitalisations

In the meantime, its spokesperson Mark van der Heever said: "As expected, with the increase in hospitalisations comes the increased demand for oxygen."

He added: "While we are still managing, the demand for oxygen during this second wave of the pandemic is up three times the volume than the pre-Covid period. The entire oxygen system is currently under strict monitoring due to the number of patients requiring oxygen."

Comment was not immediately available from Afrox, the supplier of gases to public hospitals, but the company has stated previously that it has adapted its production and transportation capacity to meet the surge in demand.

Hospitals were filling up alarmingly by 28 December (see graph below), and there were plans for more beds.

Covid

In the department's briefing of 28 December, red flags were already raised, with a warning that hospitals in all sub districts were under severe pressure, and oxygen supplies were under strain. 

One of the symptoms of Covid-19 in patients who do not have the mild case is difficulty breathing due to lung damage that is caused by the virus. 

During the briefing on 28 December, it was stated that the oxygen utilisation was running at 68.92% of available daily capacity.

The country has returned to a Level 3 Lockdown in an attempt to mitigate transmission of the virus and its new variant. 

A vaccine is only expected at the beginning of April.

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