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Promoting broader access to medical oxygen with Access Oxygen

Marie-Paule Battista and Abdoulahi Sarr, Access Oxygen intrapreneurs at Air Liquide, are working hand in hand to deploy oxygen therapy treatments to small health centers in rural and periurban areas in Senegal. An interview.

Can you give us an overview of the Access Oxygen project?

Abdoulahi Sarr: Access Oxygen is one of the Group's Inclusive Business projects that aims to promote and expand access to a comprehensive, sustainable medical oxygen solution for small healthcare centers in Senegal. It facilitates local treatment of health emergencies such as acute asthma, fetal distress, respiratory failure and many other pathologies. This avoids transferring patients to regional hospitals, which are often several kilometers away and accessed via dangerous transportation modes.

Marie-Paule Battista: We work every day to improve our solution so that it is more affordable for the Senegalese people so we can widen our health and social impact.

What does your day-to-day work consist of?

M-P.B.: I train midwives and nurses to use our kit. It includes an oxygen concentrator, a pulse oximeter, an oxygen tank and a very helpful digital app that assists them in caring for patients.

A.S.: Being an "intrapreneur" in this region requires that you be familiar with and have a firm grasp on the region's health ecosystem to build an offer that is suited to the small healthcare facilities. Our solution includes a comprehensive kit, as well as a preventive and corrective maintenance system for the equipment, training for medical personnel and education for local communities. My customers call me regularly with practical questions and I call on them every three months to check that everything is working. Finally, to promote an oxygen culture to the local population, we periodically hold village meetings organized by the chief nurse focusing on how useful and important oxygen is to our health.

Abdoulahi Sarr

Access Oxygen intrapreneur at Air Liquide

"We are proud to say that, just one year after launching Access Oxygen, we have enabled the treatment of over 1,000 patients, 200 of whom needed it for survival."

What makes this initiative innovative?

A.S.: We are reaching a new market that was not previously covered by the Group: the population at the bottom of the pyramid (the 4 billion people around the world who earn less than $10 per day). We are highlighting the health and social impact of our activities. This research is just as important to us as a profitability objective. For us, the customer is our top priority each day as we strive to properly care for patients.

M-P.B.: For my area, I have developed a funding mode based on sponsorship: the first year is paid for by a local company. We have discovered that the most time-consuming stage is actually getting the healthcare facility to sign the first contract. However, we have seen that once they implement our solution, they renew the contract. We simply needed a way to speed up the process

What is your favorite part of your work?

A.S: Traveling throughout Senegal, feeling like I am helping the people and working with motivated practitioners to advance wellness for all. And hearing spontaneous first-hand accounts from customers who are happy with Access Oxygen!

M-P.B.: Like Abdoulahi, what I like is exploring Senegal each day and each day providing a real service to small healthcare facilities and, therefore, to the patients who need it. Each sales call is like an adventure. And I am discovering a new culture that I did not know before.

Marie-Paule Battista

Access Oxygen intrapreneur at Air Liquide

"Prospecting is a job that has its share of challenges since each healthcare structure has its own decision-making body, the "healthcare committee" that includes a doctor or a nurse along with community representatives."

How do you complement each other?

A.S.: Marie-Paule and I make a good team. She is excellent with communication tools. On my end, I bring her the technical support. We talk to one another and we each share our ideas and feedback from the field. And our teamwork is paying off: we are treated as fully fledged participants in the Senegalese health system by medical professionals and patients, as well as public institutions and the international organizations on the ground. It's a fine reward!

Article published on November 29, 2019