Dr. Dayanath Ranatunga, EpiC Sri Lanka
Dr. Harini Fernando, EpiC Sri Lanka

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for dependable medical oxygen systems to treat severe COVID-19, pneumonia, and critical care patients in Sri Lanka and worldwide. A medical oxygen ecosystem assessment conducted in 15 hospitals by the Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) project and the Ministry of Health in 2021 revealed insufficient capacity to meet medical oxygen demand, as well as significant lack of technical knowledge among those who operate pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen generators. Only 11 oxygen-generating PSA facilities were functional in Sri Lanka in 2021. To ease the strain on the health care system, the Sri Lankan Government, with the help of bilateral and multilateral partners, established an additional 20 PSA plants in 2023, and another nine plants are in the procurement stage for installation in remote hospitals, which will result in an almost 300% increase in capacity.

Training of PSA plant operators and maintenance staff was essential as this is a relatively new technology in Sri Lanka’s hospital ecosystem. EpiC addressed this need by training 131 PSA plant operators across the country from all 40 hospitals with functional or planned PSA plants. Training was comprised of didactic sessions followed by hands-on practice sessions to build skills in handling machinery components, adjusting settings, and identifying and solving issues. Training also underscored the importance of maximizing plant efficiency by mastering maintenance techniques. Participants were trained on maintenance procedures of PSA plants to avoid equipment breakdowns, which can reduce periods of inactivity and expensive repairs, ultimately enhancing the durability and lifespan of the machinery.

“We didn’t think things like the order of turning on machines, the order of turning off machines were important. But when you told the reasons for doing it, we understood the need. There will be no wrongful shutdowns. Do these programs every year. It not only increases our knowledge but also increases our self-esteem.”
Mr. I.G.A Priyadarshana, Operator from District General Hospital – Matale

Surges of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Sri Lanka highlighted a critical gap between oxygen production capacity and demand. Even now as the COVID-19 caseload is lower, there is still an unmet need for medical oxygen for critical care, surgery, and labor and delivery patients, as well as treatment of chronic lung conditions and pneumonia. This investment in oxygen-producing PSA technology will ensure access to medical oxygen, especially in regions far from the country’s centrally located oxygen manufacturing facilities.

EpiC Sri Lanka produced a video describing their oxygen system strengthening activities. This story was adapted from that video.

Featured photo: PSA plant operators learn operations and maintenance skills during a hands-on training session. Photo by EpiC Sri Lanka.