Improved oxygen systems in district hospitals in Lao PDR: a prospective field trial of the impact on outcomes for childhood pneumonia and equipment sustainability

BMJ Paediatr Open. 2017 Aug 31;1(1):e000083. doi: 10.1136/bmjpo-2017-000083. eCollection 2017.


Background: Hypoxaemia is a common and potentially fatal complication of many childhood, newborn and maternal conditions but often not well recognised or managed in settings where resources are limited. Oxygen itself is often inaccessible due to cost or logistics. This paper describes implementation of oxygen systems in Lao district hospitals, clinical outcomes after 24 months and equipment outcomes after 40 months postimplementation.

Methods: A prospective field trial was conducted in 20 district hospitals, including 10 intervention hospitals that received oxygen concentrators and 10 control hospitals. Equipment outcomes were evaluated at baseline, 12, 24 and 40 months. Clinical outcomes of children under 5 years of age with pneumonia were evaluated using a before-and-after controlled study design with information retrospectively collected from medical records.

Results: Fourteen (37%), 7 (18%) and 12 (34%) of 38 concentrators required repair at 12, 24 and 40 months, respectively. The proportion of children discharged well increased in intervention (90% (641/712) to 95.2% (658/691)) and control hospitals (87.1% (621/713) to 92.1% (588/606)). In intervention hospitals, case fatality rates for childhood pneumonia fell from 2.7% (19/712) preintervention to 0.80% (6/691) postintervention with no change in control hospitals (1.7% (12/713) preintervention and 2.3% (14/606) postintervention).

Conclusion: Medium-term sustainability of oxygen concentrators in hospitals accompanied by reduced case fatality for childhood pneumonia has been demonstrated in Lao PDR. Significant local engineering capacity to address multiple causes of equipment malfunction was critical. The ongoing requirements and fragile structures within the health system remain major risks to long-term sustainability.

Keywords: general paediatrics; health services research; outcomes research; tropical paediatrics.