Oxygen problem at Ampang Hospital leads to record high COVID-19 death

HEALTH news portal CodeBlue today reported that at least 29 COVID-19 patients died on Eid al-Adha at Ampang Hospital after oxygen pressure dropped as the struggling facility admitted scores of critically ill COVID-19 patients requiring respiratory support.

According to CodeBlue’s sources, Ampang Hospital’s record number of deaths on July 20 comes on top of 23 COVID-19 fatalities reported on July 16, making it 52 deaths in two days.

Publicly, the Health Ministry (MOH) reported 93 COVID-19 fatalities nationwide on July 20, including 31 in Selangor.

It is unclear whether 29 out of the 31 deaths reported came from Ampang Hospital, as MOH may not officially report COVID-19-related deaths to the public in real time.

On the day of Eid, oxygen pressures at the fifth level of Ampang Hospital had ran alarmingly low.

According to a source contacted by CodeBlue, if drops in oxygen levels could be detected earlier, doctors and staff nurses could arrange for certain patients to be transferred out to levels that still had sufficient oxygen supply.

However, due to the lack of manpower at most times, there were delays in the transfer of patients, the source said.

A board depicting oxygen pressures at the hospital on July 19 indicated that as of 3pm, there were at least five wards having below-normal oxygen pressures of between the 3.8 and 3.9 bar. Most of these wards were at the fifth and sixth levels of Ampang Hospital.

Another four wards — also on the same two levels, with one on the fourth level — had minimal oxygen pressure of between 4.0 and 4.2 bar. Normal oxygen pressure is above 4.2 bar.

The surging demand for oxygen has put the resource at a critical level, forcing the hospital to run its oxygen storage tank at full capacity.

Under normal circumstances, it was noted that the tank gets refilled weekly, although now refills have to be done twice in a day.

Supply from the oxygen tank can be accessed through the hospital’s oxygen ports. A standard hospital ward has between 28 and 32 oxygen ports.

In Ampang Hospital, priority is given to severe COVID-19 patients requiring high-flow oxygen therapy.

Patients on face masks or nasal prongs are usually connected to oxygen cylinders that range from 0.7 litres (which can last about one to two hours), 1.4 litres (lasts about four to six hours) and to 7.0 litres, which can last up to 12 hours and are shared between five people, depending on the usage rate. – July 23, 2021

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