New Oxygen Plant Delivered Amid COVID-19 Surge In Peru

PIH and partners install oxygen plant in Trujillo

Posted on Jan 25, 2022

Hospital staff inspect a new oxygen plant in Trujillo, delivered by Socios En Salud and partners
Rosa Karina Hernández, CEO of Belén Hospital, inspects the new oxygen plant delivered by Socios En Salud and partners. Photo courtesy of Guillermo Salvador Saldarriaga / Belén Hospital

Thousands of vulnerable patients are about to breathe easier, thanks to a new oxygen plant installed by Socios En Salud and partners earlier this month.

More than 36,000 people requiring medical oxygen in the La Libertad region of Peru will benefit from the oxygen plant, which was installed at Belén Hospital by Socios En Salud, as Partners In Health is known in Peru, the Ministry of Health, USAID, and Build Health International.

The oxygen plant comes as COVID-19 cases in Peru surge amid the highly-contagious Omicron variant, which has brought the country’s total coronavirus-related deaths to 204,404 and total infections to more than 2.9 million, according to Reuters.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have fought to help close the oxygen gap,” said Dr. Leonid Lecca, executive director of Socios En Salud. “With this new oxygen plant…we ensure that more patients have access to timely and quality care.”

Oxygen is one of the last lines of defense against COVID-19, which attacks the respiratory system and, in its most severe form, requires intubation. Hospitals put patients on oxygen in hopes of preventing them from needing an ICU bed.

But the lifesaving resource is difficult to get—especially in Peru, where logistical challenges such as irregular access to electricity and the country’s electrical specifications stymied the supply chain for months.

From right to left: Mike Junge of USAID; Ever Cadenillas, regional lieutenant governor of La Libertad; Cecilia Yañez of USAID; Dr. Rosa Karina Hernández of Belén Hospital, and Dr. Leonid Lecca of Socios En Salud stand next to the new oxygen plant.
From right to left: Mike Junge of USAID; Ever Cadenillas, regional lieutenant governor of La Libertad; Cecilia Yañez of USAID; Dr. Rosa Karina Hernández of Belén Hospital, and Dr. Leonid Lecca of Socios En Salud stand next to the new oxygen plant. Photo courtesy of Guillermo Salvador Saldarriaga / Belén Hospital. 

Oxygen plants—which fit in standard-size shipping containers—are essential in oxygen production, because they enable hospitals to fill dozens of portable tanks each day. This onsite supply of concentrated, high-purity medical oxygen prevents health workers from having to travel to the nearest oxygen plant, sometimes hours away.

But oxygen plants are costly and cumbersome to install—making Socios En Salud’s efforts all the more critical.

The oxygen plant in La Libertad can produce 20,000 liters of oxygen per hour, strengthening the hospital’s response to COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia.

It’s the second that Socios En Salud has provided in partnership with USAID and the Ministry of Health. The first was installed in November at the San Martín Health Center in Iberia district, near the border with Brazil and Bolivia.

Socios En Salud has worked in Peru since 1994, where it responded to a deadly outbreak of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and ultimately changed World Health Organization policy, leading the WHO to revise its global treatment recommendations for the disease. In the decades since, Socios En Salud has continued to provide medical care and social support in Carabayllo and beyond, focusing on strengthening the country’s health system.

As part of those system-strengthening efforts, health workers at Belén Hospital will receive training on how to use and maintain the oxygen plant, which is Socios En Salud’s latest effort to boost oxygen capacity in Lima and beyond.

Since November, Socios En Salud has delivered more than 120 oxygen concentrators and 90 oxygen tanks to hospitals across Peru, as well as installed 260 oxygen outlets directly into hospital walls, beside patient beds.

Socios En Salud also established a temporary oxygen center in Carabayllo for patients with dangerously low oxygen levels. A second such center is planned to open later this month.

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