The Preah Vihear provincial Department of Health on September 14 inaugurated a new oxygen plant, built with the US government’s assistance and expected to benefit around 300,000 people.

Department director Kuong Lo said the facility – funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in collaboration with UNICEF and Cambodia’s Ministry of Health – is located in the “16 Makara” Provincial Referral Hospital.

He said it is very important for the hospital to produce oxygen to help patients, especially those with respiratory complications.

“With this facility in place, we save time by not having to transport oxygen from Phnom Penh or from other provinces, and we also save some money. It uses only electricity, and will be far more cost effective than purchasing oxygen,” he said.

He added that previously, the department had to purchase oxygen at 60,000 to 70,000 riel ($15 to $17) per unit. It also took some time to arrive.

In addition, the plant will enable the department to share its excess oxygen supplies with other hospitals and health centres.

“This can produce nearly 20 units of oxygen in just three or four hours. If we operate it non-stop, we will be able to meet the needs of the entire province,” he noted.

Lo said construction of the plant and the installation of the equipment cost over $300,000.

US ambassador W Patrick Murphy said the plant will help to meet demand for critical services such as Covid-19 case management, surveys and intensive care.

“This is part of the more than $16 million in support that the US has provided to Cambodia to assist with its pandemic response, and a strong example of the ties that bind our two nations,” he said in a press release.

UNICEF Representative in Cambodia Foroogh Foyouzat said oxygen is a matter of life and death. The UN body, she said, is working with the Cambodian government to improve oxygen supply and infrastructure while building the capacity of health workers so that they could maintain it.

“We are grateful to the US, and specifically USAID, for supporting this lifesaving new plant. It will improve today’s health outcomes and build resilience for tomorrow’s challenges,” she added.

The 16 Makara Provincial Referral Hospital serves seven districts with a population of about 284,000. The medical generator installed at the plant can produce 300 litres of oxygen per minute and connects to a storage system which can fill cylinders and to the hospital’s oxygen tubes.