(JAMAICA GLEANER) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has donated more than 7,000 pulse oximeters and nearly 2,000 oxygen concentrators to aid member countries’ response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Director, Dr Carissa Etienne, says the items have been provided to assist health workers in identifying COVID-19 patients in hospitals requiring oxygen and ensuring adequate supplies to help persons to recover.
A pulse oximeter measures the body’s heart rate and oxygen level.
The oxygen concentrator is used to direct oxygen from a source by selectively removing nitrogen to supply an enriched product stream.
Speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday, Etienne said the surge in COVID-19 infections across the region has increased the rate of hospitalisations, triggering an unprecedented oxygen supply challenge.
The region of the Americas recorded more than 1.2 million new cases and nearly 34,000 deaths over the past week, the latter statistic amounting to 40 per cent of the global total.
Etienne noted that consequent on this development, health workers are facing mounting challenges, as oxygen and other life-saving supplies “are running dangerously low”.
The PAHO director pointed out that a “typical” COVID-19 patient may require up to 300,000 litres of oxygen during a 20-day hospital stay, adding that patients in critical care “often need double that”.
She said in light of this, the authorities in many countries have had to act quickly to develop technical skills and find urgent solutions to provide oxygen for patients.
Etienne advised that PAHO has been focused on mapping oxygen supplies across the region to identify where help is urgently needed, pointing out that the entity reconstituted a technical group to provide expertise, “so [that] countries can make needed investments”.
She further indicated that PAHO is working hand in hand with member countries’ health authorities to help them redesign their models of care and update their clinical guidance.
This, she added, in order to optimise resources available and ensure that more patients receive the oxygen they need.
“We are also helping countries [to] safely scale their oxygen production and to make needed investments in equipment, updates, maintenance and human resources, so oxygen is consistently available everywhere, now and into the future,” Etienne said.