Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Implementation of an oxygen concentrator system in district hospital paediatric wards throughout Malawi

Penny Enarson, Sophie La Vincente, Robert Gie, Ellubey Maganga, Codewell Chokani

Problem

Hypoxaemia in children with severe or very severe pneumonia is a reliable predictor of mortality, yet oxygen was not available in most paediatric wards in Malawi.

Approach

The Child Lung Health Programme in Malawi made oxygen available by supplying oxygen concentrators and essential supplies to 22 district and 3 regional hospitals’ paediatric wards. Five key steps were taken to introduce concentrators: (1) develop a curriculum and training materials; (2) train staff on use and maintenance; (3) retrain electromedical departments on maintenance and repair; (4) conduct training once concentrators arrived in the country; and (5) distribute concentrators once staff had been trained.

Local setting

The paediatric wards in 3 regional and 22 government district hospitals and 3 regional electromedical engineering departments in Malawi.

Relevant changes

Main changes were: (1) provision of a source of oxygen in every paediatric ward in all district hospitals; (2) training of electrical engineering and health personnel in the use, maintenance and repair of oxygen concentrators; and (3) setting-up of high-dependency rooms or areas for severely ill children where oxygen is administered.

Lessons learned

It is feasible to implement an oxygen system using concentrators throughout a low-income country. Oxygen delivery requires trained staff with necessary equipment and supplies. Regular maintenance and supervision are essential to ensure optimal utilization.

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