Lack of enough oxygen, Covid-19 testing kits put counties in a fix

Vihiga county Governor Wilber Ottichilo during the official unveiling of the Oxygen plant at Vihiga County Referral Hospital on May 20, 2021.[Benjamin Sakwa,Standard]

Public hospitals in the Western region are grappling with the scarcity of oxygen and testing kits.

Vihiga County has been struggling to fix a power hitch that stalled operations of an oxygen plant at Mbale Referral Hospital about two weeks ago.

On the other hand, Kakamega County has run out of Covid-19 testing kits.

Governor Wilbur Ottichilo’s administration procured an oxygen plant with capacity to generate 300 litres of oxygen per minute, but the project ran into headwinds following power supply challenges.

Vihiga continues to refer patients in need of oxygen to Kakamega County General Hospital, which is facing oxygen supply challenges due to high number of patients.

Vihiga County Director of Communications told Saturday Standard that it has procured a bigger transformer to address the challenges. 

Mr Wetende said that the oxygen plant was still intact and “with the new high voltage power transformer, production of oxygen to support patients will be resumed by early August.”

In April, Kenya Power issued the county government a Sh5.1 million quotation to facilitate upgrading power supply to the five-bed ICU that cost Sh27 million to set up at the county's referral facility.

By Wednesday, Vihiga County Referral Hospital had four patients on oxygen support.

The county’s acting Health Executive Inonda Mwanje said they had procured enough oxygen to meet the daily demand.

“We don’t have a deficiency in oxygen even though we have active patients on the oxygen support machine,” said Prof Mwanje.

Kakamega Health Executive Collins Matemba confirmed that Covid-19 testing kits  depleted earlier this month, a situation that has derailed service delivery. “The crucial testing kits that depleted by July 3, has affected the testing of coronavirus samples in our laboratories. We have to rely on alternative way of conducting testing,” he said.

According to Matemba, Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR) are being done from Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) in Kisumu and Busia. “The national government only supplied us with sample collection kits for PCR through Kemri,” he said.

He said the county government has formally written to the Ministry of Health to speed up the delivery of the kits.

Matemba indicated that the county has procured adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) at a cost of Sh25 million and distributed them to hospitals across the county. So far, Kakamega has recorded 71 Covid-19 cases in July, 13 deaths and 124 admissions.