The Ministry of Health, Guyana and PAHO Assess Health System Capacities for the Distribution and Provision of Medical Oxygen for Patient Care


Across the globe, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for stable supplies of medical oxygen, which is critical for the treatment of most hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Anticipating a surge of COVID-19 cases in Guyana, the Ministry of Health requested technical support from PAHO to assess the oxygen supply infrastructure in the health system, to determine measures to scale up distribution of oxygen in the country. PAHO deployed a team within days to assess current medical oxygen supply capacities and proposed recommendations to improve epidemic response.

Mr. Lucio De Magalhaes Brito, an experienced clinical and hospital engineer was deployed to assist the Ministry of Health in organizing the assessment into two components:

  1.  A checklist was prepared to gather information on quantitative consumption measurements, including litres of oxygen consumed per week, the number of oxygen points and additional data to measure oxygen consumption and project an increase in demand.
  2. The second component consisted of a nine-day site visits conducted by the team to the sixteen (16) most important Regional and District Hospitals across the ten administrative regions of Guyana, with the primary purpose of assessing the oxygen supply infrastructure within the hospitals, such as the system of distribution (pipelines, cylinders) and areas where oxygen is required (Operating Theatre, ICU, Maternity Unit). 

In addition, other areas of hospital management were inspected, such as the stability of the electricity supply from the national grid and emergency generators, sterilization equipment and techniques, water supply, and the availability of qualified and trained technical staff to manage the facilities.

The Health Systems and Services unit implemented this activity to support Guyana to ensure access to essential priority health technologies (Sustainable Health Agenda 2018-2030, Strategic Goal five). This activity contributed to implementing Pillar Seven (Case Management) of the COVID-19 PAHO Strategic Response Plan for the Americas.

Access barriers and the rough terrain in Guyana pose a severe challenge for providing essential health services in the country, especially in the four hinterland regions, regions 1, 7, 8, and 9. A comprehensive approach to re-structuring oxygen supply and, in some cases upgrading health services in these regions were among the main recommendations provided to the Ministry of Health at the end of the mission briefing.

Dr. Frank Anthony, Honorable Minister of Health of Guyana, thanked PAHO for the quick organization of this mission and the practical recommendations provided by the PAHO team. The Country Office is currently engaged with the Ministry of Health, contributing to preparing the plan to upgrade oxygen capacities in the country.