The Ministry of Health has formed an Oxygen Taskforce to help address an acute shortage of the gas amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Thursday morning, the Mutahi Kagwe-led ministry said the team is working on a Master plan as well as assessing the infrastructure and economies of scale per hospital to address the situation.

The oxygen Taskforce, the ministry noted, has identified issues of service, maintenance & operations and pipping as a requirement.

“…which we are currently working on to address with partners such as the World Bank and the French Government,”

“Oxygen is an essential commodity in our drug list. Although we have oxygen plants across the country the oxygen is not sufficient.”

According to the Ministry of Health statistics, the total production and requirement of oxygen for the industry was about 410 tonnes as per last year.

The number shot to 560 tonnes in January this year due to the rising cases of critical care patients in need of oxygen.

As the third wave of the virus continues to ravage the country, there are fears that the demand might be double last year’s figure.

“The demand for oxygen is high because of the Covid-19. but we are working with partners and suppliers to address the situation,”

the ministry added.

The ministry shared the details a day after it emerged that health services at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) have been greatly affected following the shortage of medical oxygen.

While suspending elective surgeries, the hospital attributed the shortage to a surge of Covid-19 patients in need of care.

In an internal memo, the hospital directed the discharge of all patients who had been booked for surgeries.

“…discharge all elective awaiting surgery till the situation normalises,”

a section of the internal memo from the facility reads.