Covid-19 patients who do not need immediate hospital attention but are at high risk of developing serious symptoms can have home oxygen to reduce the risk of deterioration, nbs radio has learnt
Oxygen concentrator, a machine that produces medical oxygen from home, is being recommended to Covid-19 patients that have partially recovered and have been discharged.
Hospitals are discharging patients before they have fully recovered to decongest facilities and cope with the fast rising numbers of Covid-19 patients that are severely ill and need serious medical attention.
Currently, there is an acute shortage of oxygen at Mulago National Referral Hospital and other major hospitals in the country, which has led to many Covid-19 patients dying due to lack of the life support gas.
In light of this crisis, doctors have advised that patients who are not severely sick but may need breathing support can buy and use their own oxygen machines at home.
“I have been advising the survivors who are oxygen bound to buy oxygen concentrators. We used to import them but now we are buying locally,” Dr Bruce Kirenga, the director of Makerere University Lung Institute, said on Thursday
Dr Kirenga, who is treating Covid-19 patients at Mulago National Referral Hospital, however, warned against using oxygen cylinders or concentrators at home to treat severely sick patients.
“With Covid-19, at acute phase (of the disease), you need high flow oxygen at around 30 litres per minute. But the best an oxygen concentrator gives is around seven litres of oxygen per minute. So you still need to go to the hospital where there is a plant and high flow oxygen,” he explained.
Dr Kirenga explained that when placed in an open place such as a sitting/living room and plugged to electricity, an oxygen concentrator will cool the normal oxygen in the atmosphere, keep it inside and concentrates it to 95 per cent or 100 per cent.
The normal percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere is 21 per cent.
The high concentration of oxygen is needed for Covid-19 patients that are in acute condition because their airways are partially blocked and a higher concentration of oxygen is needed to make sufficient oxygen reach the body.
The body relies on oxygen to generate energy that is needed to make the heart pump blood and sustain life. Covid-19 damages the lung, causing narrowing of the airways and eventual death.
The machine has a gauge which shows the level of oxygen and it has a tube that can be used to convey the life-saving gas to the patient.
The tube from the machine, nasal cannula, is placed in the nostrils of a patient and a mask that comes with the machine as a set are adjacent over the nose and mouth. The patient simply breathes through the nose normally.
The market assessment by Daily Monitor on Thursday found that the oxygen machines and cylinders may be too costly for many Ugandans.
Mr Abdallah Matovu, one of the dealers in oxygen concentrators in Kampala, said he has two types.
The biggest machine produces 10 litres of a hundred per cent oxygen per hour and it is sold at Shs4 million, according to Mr Matovu. The concentration, may, however, reduce to 95 per cent.
He said the smallest one produces five litres of a hundred per cent oxygen per hour. This one is portable and has a battery backup that lasts for one hour. It is sold at Shs3.8 million.
At Uganda Oxygen Limited in Kampala, initial purchase price of an oxygen cylinder of 70 kilogrammes is Shs1 million. The cylinder is 6.8 cubic meters and has 6,800 litres of oxygen. Refilling is Shs35,000. This can last 22 hours at a flow rate of 5 litres per minute.
A 35 kilogrammes oxygen cylinder has 4.1 cubic meters and around 4,100 litres. It costs more than Shs1 million. Refilling is Shs25,000. This can last around 13 hours at a flow rate of five litres per hour.
An 18 kilogrammes oxygen cylinder has 1,360 litres and costs Shs1, 020,000. Refilling is Shs20, 000. This can last around four and a half hours at a flow rate of 5 litres per hour.
The oxygen cylinders appear to have a flat rate regardless of the size. The company explained that it’s because the cylinders are imported and the manufacturers charge a flat rate irrespective of size.
However, another company called Oxygas Limited, said they sell cylinders of 7.5 cubic meters at Shs 800,000, but refilling is Shs 32, 000.
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