Hospitals experiencing a shortage of oxygen.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has recently expressed concern over a new challenge facing hospitals, a shortage of oxygen. Mkhize conducted site visits at various Gauteng hospitals, including Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Tshwane. The hospital made headlines earlier in the month after photos and video clips showing an influx of COVID-19 outside the facility, went viral.

The country’s health system is already under immense pressure, mainly attending to COVID-19 hospitalisations, which have been on the rise due to the second wave of infections. The minister said his department was knee-deep in working to ensure oxygen provision for COVID-19 patients.

“Even the oxygen manufacturing plants are under a lot of pressure but we need oxygen. We need oxygen in all the hospitals, we need oxygen at casualty, at the out patients, we need oxygen in district hospitals, we need oxygen everywhere and we are trying to do our best to make sure that the oxygen is available because that’s what saves lives,” he said.

More staffers and oxygen have been added to the Tshwane and Steve Biko Academic Hospitals to strengthen the facilities’ capacity, in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both hospitals have also seen a sharp rise in admissions, something which the health department has expressed concern over.

Mkhize emphasised that oxygen was a critical tool in aiding the healthcare system and essentially managing COVID-19 cases. He said in many instances, some patients do not even need further care in the intensive care unit (ICU) because they have been given oxygen.

“You use it (oxygen) ahead of even having to put people into ICU and many people will actually be turned away from ICU because they were given adequate attention with oxygen…So that issue, is an important issue,” Mkhize said.

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