The Rotary Club of Monrovia (RCM) over the weekend broke ground for the construction of a facility to house a medical grade oxygen production plant for ELWA Hospital.
The Oxygen Plant project, which costs approximately US$200K, comes after nearly 4 years of fund-raising and project development by the Rotary Club of Monrovia, Rotary Club of Marlow and other Rotary Districts in the United Kingdom.
RCM president Monique Cooper-Liverpool said her organization is pleased to collaborate with ELWA Hospital on this life-saving project and described the venture as the beginning of a new phase of work that has been ongoing for four years.
The Oxygen Plant is one of two “Ebola Legacy projects” that is being implemented by the Rotary Club of Monrovia.
Mrs. Cooper-Liverpool disclosed that the dream that led to the conception of the project started during the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease. “Our club stood in the face of the virus and we decided to use our network of clubs to harness that support and goodwill that helped to bring relief to our people. We were able to put together over US$100K of support at the time, coordinating efforts with the Ministry of Health and other partners across the country.”
Once completed, the oxygen plant will be capable of filling cylinders, and supplying oxygen for Operating Theaters, Emergency Room and treatment areas of the new ELWA hospital. The excess bottled oxygen not used by the hospital would be made available to other medical facilities in the Monrovia area at minimal cost, she said.
“Today is the culmination of years of hard work from our members, Rotary partners in the UK and the beneficiary ELWA. We are truly excited to get the project started and are looking to all the lives we can save by simply having high-quality medical oxygen available for patients when they need it,” she added.
It is expected that over the next six months the building will be completed, equipment purchased, installed and staff trained for effective operations of the plant, she noted.
RCM was one of the early responders during the EVD outbreak. Rotarians were at the front line providing critical support to the Ministry of Health with initial donations of gloves, supplies of mattresses, liquids, and food to quarantined patients and households, protective equipment to health workers, buckets and chlorine and awareness materials and sanitation training to communities.
ELWA was also an Ebola first responder and champion. When Ebola first arrived in Liberia in 2014, ELWA converted their chapel into an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU). When the second wave of Ebola-hit in June 2014, it was the only treatment unit in Monrovia. As the outbreak worsened, ELWA expanded its Ebola Treatment Unit into what would be called ELWA-2. In this unit, nearly 750 patients were treated.
ELWA Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. John Fankhauser, expressed gratitude that the project is now coming to fruition. He said medical grade oxygen has been a big issue at the facility since his arrival here four years ago. “When I first arrived at the old hospital, it was indeed difficult to get oxygen for patients who needed it. It was often a big scramble to get this lifesaving product,” he said.
He lauded the Rotary club for its vision and noted that it will be of great help to the Liberian populace. Since the hospital was moved to its current site, Mr. Fankhauser said services have tremendously improved, but more needs to be done to get to where the hospital dreams of being.
He said the best way to sustain efforts in providing quality and affordable services to the public is through collaboration as the RCM is doing.
Meanwhile, the 61 member RCM was well represented at the ceremony. Some of those present were Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks, Minister of Commerce Wilson Tarpeh, and former Chief Justice Henry Reed Cooper.