Health Ministry warns COVID-19 patients against use of oxygen at home

Health Ministry warns COVID-19 patients against use of oxygen at home
A Ugandan gets his oxygen supply in his car as he awaits to get a bed in a Kampala hospital

Kampala, Uganda | URN  | The Ministry of Health has urged COVID-19 patients in Uganda to stop using (commercially acquired) Oxygen at home as this endangers them.

In a statement released on Friday 18, June 2021, the ministry asked people to seek care in hospitals instead of home since they can easily be managed within a health care facility. 

A warning was also issued to health workers helping connect people to oxygen in their homes. The health ministry said all health workers involved in the practice were doing so illegally and must stop it.

The director general of health services at the Ministry of Health, Dr Henry Mwebesa says the public needs to know that the use of un-prescribed oxygen is not helping people infected with COVID-19 but rather worsening their condition.

“The haphazard oxygen administration has resulted in deterioration of patients and by the time they are rushed to gazetted hospitals, they are in poor condition and sometimes cannot be helped,” Dr. Mwebesa said.

According to Dr. Mwebesa, oxygen is supposed to be used by persons who are suffering from severe forms of COVID-19 and as such should be admitted to hospital instead of being managed at home. He says only experienced health workers are able to determine what form (and levels) of the disease patients are suffering from.

Dr. Mwebesa says many of the people administering oxygen at home are not using the required levels, which is dangerous.

” Due to lack of proper regulation and monitoring, a number of patients are deteriorating because of receiving either lower of higher levels of oxygen as different severity levels may demand. Administering oxygen in unnecessary higher doses is toxic to a number of vital body organs such as the brain,” he added.

In addition to this, Dr. Mwebesa says the quality of the oxygen is not known, which also posses another threat to patients. He says they are not sure whether people are being given medical or industrial oxygen.

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At the moment there are 1,004 COVID-19 patients that are hospitalised. Instead of self medicating on oxygen, the health ministry says people should seek medical care from hospitals, by calling emergency services that will help transport sick patients according to their severity.

The use of oxygen became common last week when a number of reports intimated that hospitals did not have enough oxygen. At different regional referral hospitals, oxygen shortages have been reported while at Mulago National Referral hospitals, another Oxygen plant is under construction following high demand for oxygen.

According to doctors at Mulago, patients who have severe or critical forms of the disease need a lot more oxygen than other patients. While patients suffering from other diseases might require 5 to 10 litres of oxygen, those with COVID-19 may need up to or over 20 litres of oxygen a minute.