GOVERNOR Seyi Makinde, on Wednesday, unveiled the first solarized PSA medical oxygen plant in the health sector in Africa and a level 2 newborn unit at the Jericho Specialist Hospital as part of interventions to ensure equitable health care services to save mothers and new babies from dying.

He also launched the five-year Oyo State Strategy for the Scale-up of Medical Oxygen in Health Facilities roadmap to streamline efforts to ensure all patients receive oxygen therapy when and where needed.

The Solarized PSA medical oxygen plant and the Level 2 Newborn Units were donated by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), IHS Towers, and Bills and Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the governments of Canada and Norway.

The governor stated that the provision of medical oxygen was a big issue at his birth and in the heat of COVID-19, when people on ventilators require oxygen for survival, adding that the solarized PSA medical oxygen plant will fill the gap in case another pandemic occurs.

“Provision of oxygen was a big issue in the heat of COVID-19. But Oyo State used the pandemic as a fulcrum for developing healthcare facilities. Although no one is praying for another COVID-19, it is always best to be prepared. And there’s no better way to be prepared than to have facilities like this.

“Even if there’s no COVID-19, at least newborn babies that may be like me when I was born will not have to tell a very long story. They can be saved.”

Governor Makinde said that the projects were key to his administration’s plan to move people in the state from poverty to prosperity even as he announced plans to recruit more doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to address the personnel shortage within the health system directly.

UNICEF’s Nigeria representative, Ms. Cristian Munduate, said in a goodwill message that the oxygen plant and Level 2 Newborn Unit were a testament to what can be achieved through collaborative efforts in ensuring the health and wellbeing of every child and mother.

According to her, the solarized oxygen plant is a beacon of innovation and resilience, promising to save countless lives and provide a model for similar initiatives across the country.

She added that the Level 2 Newborn Unit, dedicated to providing specialised care for premature and critically ill newborns, will significantly reduce neonatal mortality rates and improve health outcomes for our youngest and most vulnerable population.

On the launch of the Oyo State Strategy for the Scale-Up of Medical Oxygen in Health Facilities, she said the strategy is a comprehensive roadmap designed to ensure that every health facility in the state is equipped with the necessary resources to provide medical oxygen.

She added: “It outlines the steps for capacity building, infrastructure development, supply chain management, and sustainable financing mechanisms. These facilities, including the strategy, are critical in our efforts to improve health outcomes and are aligned with UNICEF’s commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”

Earlier, Oyo State Commissioner for Health, Dr Oluwaserimi Ajetunmobi, stated that Nigeria records 120,000 children dying every year because of low levels of oxygen in their blood (hypoxaemia), caused by many diseases, including asthma, heart disease, pneumonia, and severe malaria.

Dr Ajetunmobi stated that medical oxygen is a lifesaving essential medicine that is critical to care and improves patient outcomes at all levels of the healthcare system, from intensive care, newborn and child healthcare, and surgical services to outpatient services.

In a goodwill message, a representative of IHS Towers, Mr Ayobami Adisa, said the oxygen plant is a symbol of solidarity, resilience, and hope that embodies the belief in surmounting challenges and building a brighter and healthier future for all.