The National, Thursday 6th September, 2012
THE Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) has donated 93 simple oxygen monitors to Papua New Guinea hospitals to help ensure safe anaesthesia and to save the lives of thousands of patients undergoing surgery.
The monitors, known as pulse oximeters, were donated at the PNG Medical Symposium yesterday.
ANZCA’s overseas aid committee chairman Dr Michael Cooper said senior anaesthetists in PNG had identified a need for 300 pulse oximeters for operating theatres and recovery areas throughout the country.
“Pulse oximeters are one of the most basic pieces of equipment in an anaesthetist’s tool box. Without them, the only way an anaesthetist knows a patient is not getting enough oxygen is when their skin starts turning blue, which is usually too late.
“In developed countries, where pulse oximeters are standard equipment, the risk of death from anaesthesia is as low as one in 200,000 anaesthetics administered, compared to one in 133 in Africa,” Cooper said.
“This first donation of pulse oximeters will ensure safer anaesthesia in PNG and will literally save lives.”
He said they would be distributed throughout 40 hospitals in PNG, raising the standard of care provided to patients.
Pulse oximeters are simple devices attached to the finger or earlobe, which check the level of oxygen in a patient’s bloodstream, sounding an alarm as soon as they detect the slightest unsafe change.
Cooper said the monitors were standard care in Australia and New Zealand, yet about 77,000 operating theatres around the world did not have access to these devices, putting at risk about 35 million patients each year.
The pulse oximeters were provided by funds raised by ANZCA specialists and its overseas aid committee through the Lifebox project, an initiative of anaesthetists around the world.
For US$250 (K521), the Lifebox project provides a pulse oximeter and educational material to hospitals in developing countries.
The pulse oximeter is a key component of the World Health Organisation’s surgical safety checklist aimed at improving compliance with standards.
ANZCA also donated 40 packs of 11 key medical textbooks specific to developing country anaesthesia for distribution to public hospitals.
Cooper and Dr Chris Acott will conduct workshops to train PNG staff in simple fibre-optic intubation techniques.
He said these were crucial in a country with a high rate of head and neck cancers due to betel nut chewing and smoking.