. The demand has doubled
. Minister of Health & Wellness, Dr Edwin Dikoloti
Mr Speaker, dumalana lenna ke simolole kago gopola thamaga ka gore remo dinakong tsedi thata…..Dikhutsafalo 3 ditemananyana tse pedi: “go molemo monna yoo rwalang jokwe mo bokaung jwa gagwe..gonne Morena ga a latlhela ruri, faa hutsafatsa o tlaa tlhomoga pelo kafa bontsing jwa mautlwelobotlhoko a gagwe aa nchafadiwang moso le moso…Mr Speaker, re santse re lebeletse ka tshepo go ela ga mechaedi. Monna wa Mosotho ko Tlhareseleele abo are, Lefelleng mo ke tsamayang go latlhega baba ngata, empa nna ya ntsamaisang ke Jeso, ke ene mong wa tsela….
Mr Speaker, I wish to address this august house, on a matter so crucial and critical for the survival of our people at this very difficult time in their history. As promised in my address last Friday, I will today give an update on the state of oxygen supply in our health facilities and the interventions that are being made to bring the situation under control.
Botswana like most countries in Africa and elsewhere in the world, has in recent weeks, been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, which medical researchers and commentators alike, have termed “the third wave.” This surge has resulted in an unprecedented number of people requiring hospitalization and unfortunately, some losing their lives. At the centre of these COVID-19 infection surge, was a dire need of oxygen supply.
Mr Speaker, before the COVID-19 pandemic, our country was consuming oxygen of around 100 000 kg per month. At the peak of this pandemic in July 2021, we found ourselves needing around 200 000 kg of oxygen. This shows that the demand has doubled.
Mr Speaker, the high number of people requiring medical oxygen meant that our hospitals and health facilities were overly strained and found it difficult to cope. This understandably created some panic, fear, stress and anxiety amongst our people. Media reports including individual posts in social media platforms, also painted a picture of a sorry situation in both public and private health facilities.
Mr Speaker, as the Ministry of Health and Wellness, we could not afford to rest on our laurels when the nation was in such distress and almost giving up the war against COVID-19. Our reason for existence as a ministry is to save lives. It therefore, pained us more than anything else, to see people suffering and others dying on account of shortages of medical oxygen, in addition to other complications caused by COVID-19. We therefore, had to act with speed and urgency, to avert a looming health crisis in the middle of a pandemic, which was already having a huge toll on our people.
Mr Speaker, this undesirable state of affairs, required us to immediately capacitate all our major health facilities with adequate oxygen supply, in order to avert the deterioration of the situation. As part of our interventions, we installed a 25 tonne oxygen tank at the country’s COVID-19 high care hospital: Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital. This was done in the last week of July 2021. Prior to its installation, Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital could only supply oxygen to 100 patients. With the said 25 tonne oxygen tank installed, the hospital can now increase its oxygen supply capacity to a total 195 patients. As at this week, the hospital admission stood at about 120 patients, which means they can still afford to admit 75 more patients.
8. Mr Speaker, in order to further capacitate Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital, we have also availed funds for them to recruit 50 nurses, 40 health auxiliaries, and 15 medical doctors. The hospital has also been allowed to engage private practitioners on a locum basis, that is, in cases where their regular doctors are unable to perform their duties. Recruitment of these personnel is ongoing with some having already taken their offer letters. In addition to these measures, the hospital is currently undertaking an assessment of its overall capabilities, with a view to increasing the 195 beds that have access to oxygen supply.
9. At two of our referral hospitals, Princess Marina Hospital and Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital; we will be recruiting 50 nurses for each of the two hospitals. We will also be recruiting 40 nurses for the Greater Gaborone DHMT and another 40 for the Greater Francistown DHMT. As for the Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole, we will be recruiting 30 nurses. In addition, we will post about 47 medical interns who have just graduated from the University of Botswana, to some of our health facilities, once they have regularised their registration with the Botswana Health Professions Council. Other health facilities, will also be given additional staff to augment our front liners who are currently overwhelmed and highly overworked.
10. In Selebi Phikwe, the DHMT has partnered with BCL hospital to complement each other, so that there is never any time in which health services can be disrupted during this critical time. When they are experiencing oxygen supply challenges, they utilize the oxygen supply at the BCL hospital. The Greater Francistown DHMT has adopted a similar partnership with the private sector. I would also like to inform you that some of our leading district hospitals (Mahalapye, Scottish Memorial, Sekgoma Memorial and Letsholathebe II Memorial), have 25 to 30 tonne oxygen tanks which are fully functional. Some oxygen companies have been engaged to fill them up as and when there is a need. The same applies to Princess Marina and Nyangabgwe referral hospitals.
Further, at Princess Marina Hospital, an additional oxygen generating plant was installed last week and is expected to be functional in mid-August 2021. The new Shakawe primary hospital also has an oxygen generating plant in place. The hospital will be opened for public use before the end of the year. It is currently being used as a COVID-19 isolation centre.
11. Mr Speaker, with regards to oxygen needs in other hospitals across the country, in July 2021, my ministry awarded a tender for oxygen supply to all its health facilities. The contract will run for three years. In view of the increased demand for oxygen, the two companies have been requested to increase their supply capacity in order that any shortfalls could be averted.
12. In addition to this, my ministry also issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) to Supply, Install and Commission Medical Oxygen Generating Plants at all its primary hospitals. The tender closed on 27 July 2021 and the evaluation process has started. Award is expected before the end of this month.
13. Mr Speaker, an emergency Request for Quotation was also issued last week for the supply of one hundred and fifty (150) 10 -15 litres per minute Oxygen Concentrators. The requirement was to have local companies supply stock that was locally available in order to complement the current oxygen availability situation.
14. To date, two hundred and sixty one (261) locally available 10 litre per minute oxygen concentrators have been delivered and distributed to our health facilities, to augment oxygen supply in high dependency areas. With our strategy of home-based care for the majority of our COVID-19 patients, my ministry is in the process of purchasing more oxygen concentrators that will be used for those requiring mild to moderate oxygen supply, especially in home/community isolation.
15. This strategy Mr Speaker, is aimed at averting progression in lung and vital organ damage which is common among COVID-19 patients lacking adequate supply of oxygen. The strategy can also help avert possibilities of ICU admissions and even death.
16. Mr Speaker, our strategic partners were also kind enough to come to our aid at this very critical hour. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank them profusely, for their kindness and great generosity. The World Health Organisation (WHO), gave us ten (10) oxygen concentrators on Friday 30 July 2021. These concentrators were distributed to Gaborone and Lobatse COVID-19 treatment facilities. Prior to this, Debswana also gave us ten (10) oxygen concentrators which were also sent to our health facilities.
17. On Saturday 31 July 2021, De Beers Group also gave us ten (10) oxygen concentrators which have since been distributed to COVID-19 treatment centres in Boteti, SSKB and Selibe Phikwe areas.
18. On Wednesday 4 August 2021, the Chinese Embassy in Gaborone gave us eight (8) oxygen concentrators and twenty (20) ventilators which are in the process of being distributed as well.
19. Mr Speaker, my ministry is also working in collaboration with the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) in order to not only augment and sustain oxygen supply capacity, but to also increase hospital admission levels. As such, BDF health facilities at SSKB and Thebephatshwa, will also be supplied with two (2) oxygen generating plants. The BDF has a 120 bed capacity field hospital, which the ministry will supply with oxygen concentrators.
20. Mr Speaker, there are other notable developments in the private sector partnership with my ministry to ensure improved provision of services to our people. In this regard, Sidilega Private Hospital is erecting a thirty (30) bed field hospital complete with adequate oxygen supply. The facility is expected to be operational in 6 weeks.
21. Mr Speaker, the involvement of different stakeholders like a team from WHO which has been in the country to help build capacity on management of COVID-19 has really improved our health personnel’s ability to handle the situation at hand. You may recall, Honourable members, that some Israeli health experts were in our country some weeks ago on a skills exchange mission. Some UK health experts also arrived in the country this week for a similar mission. All these interventions help build capacity and resilience among our health workers. I want to assure you that they are now more prepared to care for us all than they were in the early days of this pandemic. We just need to be patient and give them our full support. 22. Mr Speaker, fellow members, I urge you to join me and His Excellency the President Dr Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, in assuring Batswana, your constituents, that the future is promising. Let each one of us do that which is within our power, to avert the spread of infections. My ministry stands ready to do its part. Let us not tire to always strictly follow COVID-19 protocols in all our life activities. Therein lies, the ultimate defeat of this deadly disease. Together we will defeat this pandemic.
23. I thank you for your attention.