Zambia Reports (Lusaka)

1 February 2013

Zambia: Government Buys UTH Oxygen Machines

Health Minister Joseph Kasonde has announced that the government has procured new oxygen machines to provide continuous supply to patients at the University Teaching Hospital following heavy criticism from opposition and civil society.

This comes shortly after government had denied reports that the institution had no operating oxygen machines.

Dr Kasonde has reiterated that people should not worry about the use of oxygen cylinders at UTH because the practice has been effectively used for patients for several years. He says the installation of the new oxygen equipment is expected to be completed within three weeks.

Meanwhile Dr Kasonde said he had drafted a cabinet memorandum to establish a Health Fund to plan for health issues in general.

He said the Health Fund will replace the current AIDS Fund to cater for all types of diseases.

Dr Kasonde says the Health Fund is expected to be implemented within six months once parliament ratifies the proposal.

Opposition parties and civil society groups have heavily criticised the Patriotic Front (PF) government over the issue of oxygen machines at UTH. Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND condemned chief government spokesperson Kennedy Sakeni for pleading ignorance on the issue, commenting, "I think it is irresponsible for the PF government, in particular Mr Sakeni to deny that there is no shortage of oxygen at UTH. Most people in the country are aware of what is happening there. Does he think Zambians are fools who can be convinced by a lie and yet they are the ones directly affected by the problem?"

Officials from the ruling party have differed on the crisis of UTH, which reportedly led to the deaths of 20 premature infants in the past year.

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