The Amhara Regional Government, the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, the Amhara Regional Health Bureau, the General Electric (GE) Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada have launched of the Amhara Region Oxygen Centre.
Located in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, the Amhara Region Oxygen Centre will provide affordable and reliable medical oxygen to hospitals across the Amhara Region, bringing the lifesaving medical treatment within reach of millions of patients.
The launch is a milestone of both the Safe Surgery 2020 initiative, which strengthens surgical systems in Ethiopia, and the Ethiopian government’s Medical Oxygen and Pulse Oximetry Scale Up Road Map.
“The Amhara Region Oxygen Centre is an exciting example of the power of public-private partnerships to strengthen health systems. Through Safe Surgery 2020, we have seen how partnerships are essential to improving the quality of patient care and overcoming infrastructure challenges,” says H.E. Dr. Amir Aman, Minister of Health. “The Federal Ministry of Health is committed to improving access to oxygen across the country through sustainable solutions like this Centre.”
GE Foundation’s Executive Director, Dr. David Barash, says “The commissioning of the Amhara Region Oxygen Centre is the culmination of concerted efforts by many organizations over the past three years. It is a huge achievement, both in terms of the impact it will make on health outcomes, but also as an example of what diverse partners can achieve when they work together”.
Medical oxygen is essential to providing safe surgical care and treating many critical conditions, including pneumonia, a leading cause of deaths in children. Yet, in 2016, less than half of the hospitals and health centres across Ethiopia had medical oxygen available. The issue of oxygen scarcity is present across sub-Saharan Africa: 25% of health facilities never have oxygen available and 32% have an irregular supply.
The Ethiopian government committed to expanding access to oxygen for women and children in 2016 through the Medical Oxygen and Pulse Oximetry Scale Up Road Map, in association with the United 4 Oxygen initiative. The launch of the Amhara Region Oxygen Centre serves as a demonstration model for scaling up oxygen production nationally and regionally.
“Medical oxygen is needed by many patients. Our medical practitioners should not have to make difficult decisions on which patients receive oxygen and which do not, just because there is not enough oxygen available at the facility,” says Dr. Abebaw Gebeyehu, Amhara Regional Health Bureau. “The Amhara Region Oxygen Centre is critical to ending the scarcity of medical oxygen in the region. Eventually, we hope this model will be scaled up across Ethiopia.”
The Amhara Region Oxygen Centre is a pioneering model for oxygen production and distribution developed by Assist International, a US-based NGO. The model has been proven in Rwanda and Kenya with remarkable results. After the launch of the oxygen plant in Rwanda, oxygen consumption at the host hospital increased by 853%, and at other hospitals by 236% on average.
The Centre was founded through investments by the GE Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, the Amhara Regional Health Bureau, and Felege Hiwot and Dessie Referral Hospitals.
“In many instances, innovation must go beyond a medical product or device in order to truly have impact,” adds Karlee Silver, Co-CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “Executing on an innovative business model with a strong collaborating government partnership provides an important footing for sustainable impact at scale.”
As part of the Centre, two oxygen production plants have been constructed at Felege Hiwot and Dessie Referral Hospitals. They will be managed through an innovative public-private partnership business model that creates a locally-run and revenue generating system. The Centre will also provide necessary training to hospitals to ensure medical oxygen is used effectively for patient care.
The Amhara Region Oxygen Centre is a flagship program of Safe Surgery 2020, which brings together innovations, global expertise, and local experience to make surgical care safe and accessible for all. Seed funded by the GE Foundation, the Safe Surgery 2020 initiative launched in Ethiopia in 2016 and has contributed to the development and implementation of Ethiopia’s national strategy for surgery: Saving Lives Through Surgery (SaLTS). The partnership has implemented a range of workforce development and infrastructure programs, including developing 60 surgical leaders and mentors, and training over 500 hospital staff on sterilization and surgical infection prevention across Ethiopia.