Biden administration closely monitors supply of medical grade oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients


The Biden administration is working and staying in close contact with oxygen providers and home health care agencies, industry business groups, interagency partners and the private sector to closely monitor the situation and bring the support needed, said a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Over the weekend, health industry sources told CNN that hospitals in Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Louisiana experienced oxygen shortages, with some at risk of moving to their reserves or even to run out of oxygen imminently. At least one hospital group has said it is asking the federal government for help.

“As Covid has continued to evolve, we have continued to see Covid’s best care practices continue to evolve, and part of that has been the use of high flow oxygen versus ventilators,” according to Donna Craft , Senior Director of Facilities and Construction. at Premier, a healthcare performance improvement company. “This has had an absolute increase in positive patient outcomes and better patient care.”

But unlike ventilators, medical grade oxygen is not stored in the strategic national reserve. Craft told CNN that the surge in Covid-19 cases has resulted in increased demand for oxygen supplies and hospitals cannot keep pace.

“Normally an oxygen tank would be about 90% full, and suppliers would let them drop to a 30-40% fill level remaining in their tank, giving them a three to five day supply cushion. . now is where hospitals are down to about 10-20%, which is a one to two day supply before they are full, ”said Cross. “Even then, when backfilled, they only get about 40, sometimes 50 percent, partial fill.”

The Compressed Gas Association, whose members see three to five times more normal oxygen use, is reallocating products from the industrial sector to the healthcare sector to help alleviate the problem. In addition, some of the large suppliers are shipping products from other regions to add supply to high demand areas. A state health official noted that if this was a short-term solution, there were concerns that the move could lead to shortages in other areas, if they later experienced a spike in case.

During the first wave of Covid-19, other businesses and industries that use oxygen – such as restaurants, welding and manufacturing plants – were considered non-essential businesses and were shut down, allowing hospitals to access most of the oxygen supplied by the country.
Now, the combination of a diminished supply, a shortage of drivers needed to carry oxygen, and limitations on how long those drivers are allowed to be on the road carrying hazardous materials has created a dire situation for them. hospitals in several states, including those with some of the highest number of new coronavirus cases. The situation has been particularly bad in Florida, where crossing the state can take hours and accessing remote areas with a single point of entry and exit complicates distribution.

“We have had very difficult situations over the past two weeks, where hospitals have seen their oxygen deliveries disrupted with hours of delay, putting them in a situation where they had very little oxygen supply. had a number of hospitals that were under 48 hours of oxygen, “said Mary Mayhew, president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association. Mayhew added that the situation appeared to stabilize on Saturday as the state was starting to see a reduction in hospitalizations, but many concerns remained:

“Hospitals use 3-4 times the amount of oxygen they would normally use. This is a vital supply, and hospitals continue to use oxygen 24 hours a day… This can certainly pose a problem. problems for the reliability of supply in Florida, even as our Covid hospitalizations begin to decline. ”

Premier contacted several federal agencies over the past week, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the US Department of Health and Human Services, on behalf of ailing hospitals in its network.

“This is a very critical situation,” said Craft, adding that the oxygen suppliers she works with have said they need help.

A health official working with states and federal agencies on the issue told CNN there needs to be a coordinated response.

“We understand that there are hurricanes, floods and wildfires across the country, so it’s not like there aren’t any distractions, but it’s serious and it takes a much better strategy and a communication plan around that – period. It’s life and death, “said the health official.


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