•The report calls on the companies to further pursue long-term access planning to secure sustainable supply beyond Covid-19.
•The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic made some of the leading producers of medical liquid oxygen put in place mechanisms to expand access.
Many patients in low and middle-income countries including Kenya still face a challenge accessing medical oxygen, the latest report shows
The report by Access to Medicine Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation, shows that despite some of the world’s leading producers of medical liquid oxygen taking steps to expand access to their lifesaving product, the challenge of access remains largely unaddressed.
The report notes that the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic made some of the leading producers of medical liquid oxygen put in place mechanisms to expand access.
During the pandemic, some gas companies took steps to address the access issue which included airlifting whole medical liquid oxygen tankers and trailers into LMICs via specially chartered aircraft
Others pivoted more production capacity from industrial liquid oxygen to much-needed medical liquid oxygen.
According to the report, the pandemic exposed the critical need for medical oxygen and the significant existing gaps in its provision.
For instance, the Ministry of Health in March 2021 reported that oxygen availability in public health facilities was as low as 16 per cent.
The report shows that approximately half of the healthcare facilities in LMICs do not have reliable access to medical oxygen despite medical oxygen being included in the World Health Organisation’s model list of Essential Medicines.
The report now recommends that it is critical to the well-being of people living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that the companies scale up access to this product as a priority.
This is due to the essential nature of medical oxygen and the fact that just a handful of gas companies produce the vast majority of the global supply of medical liquid oxygen.
“With a small number of companies responsible for the world’s supply of medical liquid oxygen, the role they play in the global health ecosystem needs to be prioritized,” Access to Medicine Foundation CEO Jayasree K. Lyer said.
“Medical gases are a small part of these companies’ business, yet society needs them to ensure this vital lifeline is available both during emergencies and to meet the daily medical oxygen needs of all health systems.”
The report calls on the companies to further pursue long-term access planning to secure sustainable supply beyond the Covid-19 global health crisis.
It notes that prioritising LMICs in their business operations can position gas companies to expand their businesses to largely underserved markets
It further calls for them to support health systems and the human resources required to operate and maintain medical liquid oxygen systems and administer oxygen therapy as well as plan proactively for future emergencies.
“Some of the companies in scope have demonstrated the steps they are taking to improve access over the long term, but clearer commitments are required,” Johann Kolstee said.
“The priority areas for action set out in this report show gas companies what they can do to prioritise and invest in LMICs, be proactive in finding new ways of increasing supply, and engage in long-term sustainable approaches to access.”
Kolstee is the Research Programme Manager at Access to Medicine Foundation.
According to the report, now that the immediate public health emergency has passed, it is clear whether companies will continue to address gaps in access in LMICs over the long term.