File picture: AP
File picture: AP

SA’s medical oxygen supplier increases back-up storage to cope with high demand

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Jan 11, 2021

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Cape Town – South Africa’s only supplier of medical oxygen to state hospitals and clinics, Afrox, has increased its back-up storage levels of oxygen to cater for the high demand.

With a rising number of hospitalised patients requiring oxygen, suppliers have seen a 600% spike in demand for oxygen as a result of Covid-19.

Afrox spokesperson Nolundi Rawana said the company had increased its back-up storage levels of oxygen to nearly 1 500 tons.

“As the sole supplier of medical oxygen to state hospitals and clinics, as well as private hospitals and clinics, the production and delivery of medical oxygen is our top priority, as is supplying pandemic hot spots identified by the government in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, North West and Limpopo provinces.

“We have increased back-up storage levels of oxygen to more than 720 tons at Witbank, 155 tons at Pretoria, 35 tons at PMB, 270 tons at Wadeville, 41 tons at Kuils River and 161 tons at Port Elizabeth as of 28 December 2020,” she said.

Although South Africa's two largest oxygen suppliers, Afrox and Air Liquide, have increased production, experts say some hospitals will still not get enough to meet demand due to a serious shortage of cylinders and drivers, and vehicles to distribute oxygen.

Speaking in his capacity as chief executive of Right to Care, Ministerial advisory committee (MAC) member Prof Ian Sanne told TimesLive there were serious concerns around the transportation to distribute oxygen, and district, regional and rural hospitals which have limited storage systems.

“I am significantly concerned about the delays. The health department has been warned of the consequences of inaction. In the Eastern Cape, seven hospitals have undergone upgrades. Twelve still require upgrades,” he said.

More than 400 hospitals and 1 600 clinics across all nine provinces receive their medical gases from Afrox. In 2018, the company was awarded a state healthcare contract worth over R1bn.

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