As one of the early epicentres of the Covid-19 pandemic, large swathes of Europe quickly became engulfed by rising infection rates, spreading rapidly in countries such as Italy and Spain back in early-mid 2020.

Industrial gas specialist Nippon Gases held its ground on the frontlines of the pandemic to ensure a stable supply of medical oxygen and equipment during the first waves. 

Speaking to gasworld during the Medical Gases Virtual Event 2022, Medical Technological Development at Nippon Gases, Pasquale Di Chio delved into the details of Nippon Gases’ efforts during the initial outbreak and outlined lessons learned from the pandemic. 

The oxygen mission 

Stating that humankind can only overcome difficulties by working together, di Chio referred to the timeline of pandemic events from the Spanish Flu, through SARS and Swine Flu outbreaks to MERS and the current Covid-19 outbreak. 

Key areas of focus for the company during the initial stages of the pandemic centres around the increased demand for therapies with high oxygen flows. 

“Oxygen demand has increased enormously in areas affected by Covid-19 by up to 10 times more than normal, “ di Chio explained. 

He added that Nippon Gases’ staff worked ‘tirelessly’ to organise supplies and respond to requests. 

The ‘huge’ number of hospitalised patients requiring respiratory therapies was alleviated by an increased in intensive care beds and initiative to provide oxygen homecare to patients unable to reach a hospital.

Infrastructure 

By improving its existing infrastructure across a range of areas, Nippon Gases was able to adapt to unprecedented medical oxygen demands. The company implemented a work rotation policy throughout its supply chain, employed smart working, expanded its safety procedures and increased its medical oxygen stocks. 

“We managed to make installations in record time to supply hospitals with liquid oxygen,” said di Chio. 

“What seemed like a one off situation has become our day to day reality.” 

“We can say we have literally been saving lives,” he added. 

Lessons learned 

Elaborating on lessons learned during the pandemic, di Chio revealed that delivery solutions such as liquid oxygen have allowed for greater quantities of oxygen to be delivered. 

The necessity of medical gas piping maintenance has also been placed into focus and companies must also invest in homecare. 

“Now, everyone knows much more about its importance. In the near future it will be essential that the government continues to improve the management of territory through homecare using telemedicine and telemonitoring.” 

“The lesson to be learned is the need for prevention, oxygen storage and solution facilties and the awareness that we can overcome difficulties.” 

Covid and the future 

To keep Covid-19 vaccines cold during transport, dry ice for the cold chain is necessary. Delivering vaccines in such huge quantities was referred to by di Chio as ‘probably one of the biggeset logistical challenges the world has ever witnessed.’ 

The company also uses nitric oxide for respiratory therapies. 

“New therapies must also be developed by engaging in clinical studies,” he added. 

“Providers and hospitals have to work together to improve the quality of care.”