Gibraltar’s Brexit planning helped in fight against coronavirus
Just as St Bernard Hospital needed a guaranteed supply of oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients, a plant started production thanks to the forecasts of the contingency planning team for leaving the EU. As part of their detailed Brexit preparations, Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) bosses wanted to ensure the territory was as self-sufficient as possible and to be less dependent on medical supplies from across the border with Spain.
The St Bernard and Nightingale hospitals now have their own guaranteed capacity
Last summer they decided to acquire an oxygen production plant rather than having to rely on existing liquid oxygen tanks recharged at the San Roque plant in Cádiz and on compressed oxygen cylinders from Jerez. The plant was also expected to be a more cost-effective solution.
Following this decision, the GHA technical team traveled to Eastern Europe to visit a specific production plant that was being used successfully in different hospitals.
Then it was decided to acquire it and, as a result, this equipment is already operational in Gibraltar.
The new plant can produce more oxygen than St Bernard Hospital would need under normal conditions and can also be used to recharge its own cylinders.
Meanwhile, the Nightingale field hospital in Punta Europa is equipped with portable oxygen concentrators and compressed oxygen cylinders.
The hospital will soon be able to use a temporary liquid oxygen tank and fixed oxygen points installed by the international medical gas supplier Linde Plc in collaboration with the local medical gas supplier, Oxy Ltd.
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Gibraltar’s Minister of Health and Care, Paul Balbán, said: “The St Bernard and Nightingale hospitals now have their own guaranteed capacity.
“Going forward, the GHA will be self-sufficient in oxygen thanks to its own plant for normal use and will continue to work closely with Oxy Ltd to ensure that we have access to imported oxygen to support circumstances where our demand exceeds normal requirements.”
Gibraltar has been spared the tragic scale of the coronavirus pandemic suffered by neighbouring Spain where the death toll from the disease stands at nearly 19,000 with more than 177,000 confirmed cases.
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Lockdown restrictions have largely been observed and police reported an unusually quiet Easter weekend with most families staying at home rather than heading for local beaches.
Officials said more than 1,650 swab tests had been taken in Gibraltar, with 39 active cases and 129 confirmed cases in total since the first case in early March.
Three COVID-19 positive elderly residents from ERS are soon to be declared recovered.
Gibraltar minister Gilbert Licudi said residents must not let their guard down despite the lowering of active cases and the rising number of recovered cases.
He said: “We must redouble our efforts in our fight against COVID-19.
“Had we not taken the measures that we have taken, the figures we have would have told a different and probably more sombre story.”
Mr Licudi said Gibraltar’s lockdown rules will remain the same as long as they are necessary.
He said: “The time will come when we all enjoy our time out in the open, or socialising as we used to.
“For now we need to put our self interest to one side, and act for the collective good.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)
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