Short Report - Special Collection: COVID-19

Ventilators are not the answer in Africa

Farai D. Madzimbamuto
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 12, No 1 | a2517 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v12i1.2517 | © 2020 Farai D. Madzimbamuto | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 May 2020 | Published: 27 July 2020

About the author(s)

Farai D. Madzimbamuto, Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Botswana, Gaborone, Botswana


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Abstract

The treatment of severely ill coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients has brought the worldwide shortage of oxygen and ventilator-related resources to public attention. Ventilators are considered as the vital equipment needed to manage these patients, who account for 3% – 5% of patients with Covid-19. Most patients need oxygen and supportive therapy. In Africa, the shortage of oxygen is even more severe and needs equipment that is simpler to use than a ventilator. Different models of generating oxygen locally at hospitals, including at provincial and district levels, are required. In some countries, hospitals have established small oxygen production plants to supply themselves and neighbouring hospitals. Oxygen concentrators have also been explored but require dependable power supply and are influenced by local factors such as ambient temperature and humidity. By attaching a reservoir tank, the effect of short power outages or high demands can be smoothed over. The local and regional energy unleashed in the citizens to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic should now be directed towards developing appropriate infrastructure for oxygen and critical care. This infrastructure is education and technology intensive, requiring investment in these areas.

Keywords

ventilators; oxygen concentrator; COVID-19; district hospital; Oxygen infrastructure; prone patient; critical care

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