Maintenance team saves lives through oxygen planning
The great dedication of a small team has proven lifesaving to COVID-19 patients in Robertson and Montagu hospitals – a true reflection of Western Cape Government Health’s commitment to provide quality care despite the pressures of a pandemic.
Before COVID-19, the Department’s maintenance team in the Langeberg area mainly assisted clinics and the two hospitals with repairs, servicing equipment and coordinating the availability of medical oxygen cylinders. As the number of people hospitalised due to COVID-19 increased, so did the need for oxygen therapy. The maintenance team had to re-strategise. Today one of the most prominent tasks they see to, is ensuring that the hospitals have enough of the 10,2 kg oxygen cylinders. In December 2020, Montagu Hospital used 4 036 of these cylinders and Robertson Hospital 5 145.
“With only four men in the workshop and three interns to assist, we must plan carefully to keep up with the constant demand for oxygen,” says Mr Johan Muller who leads the maintenance team. When noticing that the local supplier of medical oxygen could not keep up with the demand of its various clients, Muller and his team started to daily make two to three trips to the supplier in Robertson. They fetch oxygen filled cylinders and take them to the oxygen banks at Robertson and Montagu hospitals. The oxygen banks are linked to oxygen points in the hospitals where COVID-19 patients receive oxygen therapy as part of their treatment.
Muller explains that when one oxygen bank is depleted, it automatically switches to a second oxygen bank. The system then alerts a healthcare worker inside the hospital, who then notifies Muller’s team that the next cylinders must be installed – a cycle that is repeated more or less every five to six hours around the clock. “It takes a great toll on you, so we take it day by day and night by night. But with good teamwork and good support from our supervisor, we have been able to keep it up.”
Compared to the responsibilities of other Western Cape Government Health staff, maintenance tasks like these may seem impersonal, but Muller and his team are well aware of the lives that depend on their planning. Muller’s brother-in-law was one of the nearly 311 patients hospitalised in the Langeberg (as at 19 January) since the start of the pandemic. His brother-in-law was placed on oxygen treatment at Robertson Hospital, but sadly passed away. A number of the team’s colleagues were also hospitalised in the Langeberg, making the fight against COVID-19 personal.
Across the Western Cape oxygen levels are monitored closely and no Western Cape Government Health facility has run out of oxygen during the pandemic. The Department thanks every employee and every team who, like the Maintenance Team in the Langeberg, who are stepping it up to the benefit of our patients.
“Often when people think of a hospital they think of doctors and nurses, but they don’t realise without staff like maintenance, porters, the admin teams, etc., patient care would not be possible. I am very proud of this team!” says Muller.