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The KHMH’s Demand for Oxygen Continues to Rise

The demand for medical oxygen is on the rise at the KHMH, specifically inside the COVID-19 Unit. Just last week we reported on the installation of a new oxygen bay as the hospital needed more resources for the patients. In recent months, the number of infected persons who need oxygen has increased significantly, and with that comes the increase in liquid oxygen and hospital expenses. Our newsroom took an exclusive look at how the oxygen procedure works inside the KHMH and its sophisticated system is setup using Fabrigas Belize Limited. Senior Reporter Hipolito Novelo reports.

Hipolito Novelo, Love News: This is liquid oxygen, not the oxygen that we breathe daily. This is manufactured oxygen used for medical purposes. 

Glenford Baptist, Special Projects Coordinator, Fabrigas Belize LTD.: “The oxygen that we breathe freely is at a concentration of 21% of the atmosphere. The oxygen that we breathe when we are in a medical institution or when we are at home on the oxygen therapy is at a minimum 99.95. So it is an oxygen that is of very very high purity and it costs a tremendous amount of money to manufacture and make that oxygen available.”

Reporter: And Fabrigas Belize Limited makes that oxygen available the medical institutions countrywide and during these difficult COVID pandemic times when not only the number of infections is on the rise but the number of severely ill COVID-19 patients Fabrigas services are crucial to institutions like the KHMH.

Glenford Baptist, Special Projects Coordinator, Fabrigas Belize LTD.: “Our phone lines are available twenty four hours a day they are never shut off and our team at Fabrigas is always ready, always available to respond to the need to deliver medical oxygen anywhere in this country not just the KHMH.”

Reporter: And at the KHMH the number of COVID-19 patients who require medical oxygen is on the rise. 

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “The same way the cases or the acuity of the cases has increased that demand has also increased. So in the event previous to the spike in middle August going into September we were dealing with five or maybe six the most intensive care patients in the COVID unit. Up for the past three weeks we’re dealing with upward of ten so it means that we are also increasing on the demand that we have for oxygen and apart from that in the early stages of COVID we were using more ventilators for assisting the patients to breathe but now we’re using more high flow machines. Ventilators would have gone up to fifteen-twenty liters per minute with oxygen compared to high flow machines where the doctors can get the settings all the way up to eighty liters per minute to the patient.”

Reporter: On Thursday seven high flow machines were functioning in the KHMH COVID-19 unit. The KHMH has a central distributing system monitored by medical gas technicians. The COVID-19 unit at the KHMH has a supplement system to ensure that the delivery of oxygen to patients is not disrupted.

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “In the initial stages of COVID before we had  this spike in acuity of patients we were using the central distribution system to get through to all patients throughout the hospital and this same system delivers oxygen to all the beds in the hospital. However due to that demand down at the specific end the distribution system was being strained and we weren’t getting the flows that we wanted to the patient so we had to put a supplemental system to mitigate against any adverse situation with respect to the delivery of oxygen and all patients more than likely when they’re admitted in the unit, it might be an exception of one or two, they’re on some form of oxygen therapy.”

Reporter: And in most cases how long do they last in oxygen therapy ?

Timothy Seguro, Acting CEO, KHMH: “More than likely from hospitalization until discharge because that’s what keeps most patients in the hospital setting. They go up from that three liters per minute all the way up to that sixty liters per minute and then come back down to that three liters and then they’re discharged from there.”

Reporter: Since the spike of COVID cases and severely ill patients seeking medical care at the KHMH leading to a demand for oxygen it is crucial that the central distributing system is maintained with at least seventy percent of liquid oxygen. 

Glenford Baptist, Special Projects Coordinator, Fabrigas Belize LTD.: “For this big tank at the back here we used to get oxygen top up from I would say thirty percent to seventy percent every three weeks but since the COVID spike we want to maintain this at seventy percent at least so that in the case Fabrigas cannot reach or there’s any issue with oxygen we know we have at least three weeks supply of oxygen from fill to empty. With the dewars that’s basically a new project that we put in place for over two weeks now I would say however the usage rate is now leading toward five hundred and fifty pounds of liquid oxygen within twenty four hours.”

Reporter: Medical oxygen is now delivered to the KHMH every other day. These cryogenic tanks are equipped with solar energy capabilities and a remote monitoring system allowing Fabrigas and customers to monitor installations in real time. Fabrigas operations are technologically sophisticated.

Glenford Baptist, Special Projects Coordinator, Fabrigas Belize LTD.: “One of the pillars of our business is utilizing technology. So when we started this business twenty three years ago one of our first jobs was to look at technology and what we have done over the years is that we have embraced and we have invested in technology. One of the key benefits of utilizing technology is greater efficiency so you are able to do more in less time. Now what happened there is that we are using liquid oxygen, we are not using the conventional gaseous oxygen. So we have a special truck that transports and handles liquid oxygen. At Fabrigas most of our customers they know it as the pepita which is a small pipa. The conventional ones hold about something like ten thousand gallons. This is a much smaller unit that holds five hundred twenty five gallons so it is a small one. Nevertheless we are using liquid oxygen so we have the special truck which is a cryogenic vessel, it is designed to handle cryogenic liquids. Liquid oxygen is a cryogenic liquid and of course we have to have special equipment to do so. So we utilize our pepita, we have special liquid cylinders those cylinders like I said earlier would hold and average of twenty six to twenty seven cylinders in gaseous state but just that they’re in liquid form and the cylinders are designed whereby they will operate at two phases one is a liquid phase and the other is a gaseous phase which is contained inside the vessel and essentially during the time that the cylinder is operating it will be constantly changing liquid oxygen into a gaseous phase and then that gaseous phase is transported to the patient rooms via pressure that is build internally in the vessel.”