Air Products South Africa has been supplying critical gases to the Natal Fertility Clinic and KZN Day Clinic, helping to enable its successful growth phase.

The Natal Fertility Clinic, which opened its doors in November 2011, specialises in assisted fertility services for couples struggling to conceive naturally.

The clinic has since expanded substantially and now shares premises with the KZN Day Clinic in Umhlanga, a new, R40m ($2.9m) state-of-the-art, purpose-built facility.

From modest beginnings, the Natal Fertility Clinic has grown exponentially over the four years it has been in existence, and has enjoyed a close partnership with Air Products every step of the way.

This four year journey together culminated in the clinic awarding Air Products a long-term contract in December 2014 to supply high purity liquid nitrogen to facilitate the cryogenic storage of samples, as well as other medical and specialty gases.

Liquid nitrogen is used for the cryogenic freezing of sperm samples, eggs and embryos.

“When we first approached Air Products, we had a very minor liquid nitrogen requirement. At the inception of our fertility clinic, our patient numbers were small, thus the demand for gases was minimal,” recalled Dr. Christiaan Hoogendijk, Managing Partner in the clinic and a qualified medical scientist and embryologist.

“However, no matter how small our requirements, Air Products was always at hand, ensuring a timeous supply.”

“Globally and in South Africa the fertility rate in our population is dropping,” noted Dr. Hoogendijk. “This can be due to a number of factors, including stress, pollution and the prevalent use of plastic packaging products to cover our foodstuffs. We strive to provide our fertility patients with the hope and possibility that they will conceive, and do so in an ethical way, providing high-quality and affordable healthcare.”

Air Products Natal Fertility Clinic

Source: Air Products

L-R: Jasper Allardice (Air Products South Africa), Dr. Christiaan Hoogendijk (Natal Fertility Clinic), and Pravin Mohun (Air Products South Africa).

Changing demands

In time, as the clinic increased its requirements for nitrogen, Air Products changed to its mini-tank mode of supply to meet demand.

The company now ensures uninterrupted supply through the delivery of liquid nitrogen in mini-tanks and ensures continuous replenishment of back-up cylinders on-site at all times.

Jasper Allardice, Regional Sales Manager, and Pravin Mohun, Sales Engineer at Air Products South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal, were closely involved with the clinic from its inception.

“Back in 2011, we supplied the liquid nitrogen in dewars – gas storage flasks,” said Allardice. “Although only a small quantity of gas was originally required, Air Products was impressed by Dr. Hoogendijk, his healthcare expertise and the ethical and professional way in which the clinic operated. We realised the clinic would grow in time, and we committed to be there for the journey.”

In addition to high purity liquid nitrogen, Air Products now also supplies the clinic with medical and laboratory gases (including nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, argon and medical oxygen), as well as its patented built-in-purifier (BIP) technology.

Medical oxygen and nitrous oxide are used for patients undergoing surgical procedures, and carbon dioxide creates the correct atmosphere in the incubator. A reliable gas supply also drives the consistent supply of nitrogen to the embryo culture system in the laboratory, in effect mimicking the atmosphere in the human uterus.

The Natal Fertility Clinic is not only involved with assisted fertility services, but specialises in other laboratory work, including pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and other medical research, forming part of a wider international network of highly respected medical research.