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VitalAire deploys 1,000 oxygen concentrators to support COVID-19 treatment in SA

A consignment of 1,000 oxygen concentrators has touched down at OR Tambo International Airport to be deployed to assist healthcare facilities across South Africa in dealing with the pandemic.

The oxygen concentrators, allocated from Air Liquide stocks in Europe, are used to assist recovering patients in step-down facilities, and can help liberate hospital beds in COVID-19 treatment facilities.

Natasha Naidoo, Managing Director at VitalAire South Africa, says: “Air Liquide and its VitalAire business unit have been working tirelessly since the start of lockdown to help hospitals increase their liquid oxygen capacity, and to ensure that step-down facilities have access to the oxygen concentrators needed by patients who are no longer critical.”

“Air Liquide has a significant role to play during this crisis – firstly, in the traditional way by supplying oxygen to hospitals. Our experience in the rest of the world indicates that under COVID-19 conditions, some hospitals will increase their oxygen consumption by three to five times the normal volumes, so increasing capacity is key to helping hospitals treat more patients. Air Liquide Healthcare is now working to help increase reservoir capacity at hospitals and field hospitals around the country, including the AngloGold field hospital in Carletonville,” says Naidoo.

“Secondly, given that there might be a shortage of beds at the peak of the outbreak, VitalAire’s oxygen concentrators can help with the earlier discharge of patients to step-down facilities. Using concentrators, recovering patients can safely be moved from piped oxygen,” says Naidoo.

Air Liquide’s VitalAire business has equipped Netcare hospitals with 450 concentrators, and the field hospital at Nasrec with 50 concentrators to date. The National Treasury, which is coordinating the roll out of treatment facilities, has engaged Air Liquide on how many more concentrators it can make available. The latest consignment of 1,000, along with stocks already deployed and a further order now being finalised, will bring the number of units Air Liquide will ship to South Africa to around 3,000.

These much-needed supplies come at a time when global demand has resulted in delays of up to six weeks due to manufacturing time and shipping. “Fortunately, Air Liquide had these stocks available in Europe, where the peak of the crisis has passed,” says Naidoo. There were challenges in procuring and supplying these devices. “With the surge in demand, there is a global shortage.

There were also bottlenecks in air freighting, as the number of flights into South Africa has been dramatically reduced. But our team has worked around the clock to procure and distribute these devices, as part of our contribution to the national effort to support patients,” says Naidoo.