Study results unveiled at the 53rd Annual Convention and Exhibition of the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC) this December, have revealed that most hospital respiratory therapy directors noted they have less than 24 hours of oxygen supply to meet a surge in demand, according to Airgas Puritan Medical.

The results of the 2007 Disaster Preparedness Study indicated that while most of the respiratory therapy directors said their hospitals had a dedicated supply of portable oxygen cylinders for a disaster or pandemic, most also said that they have less than 24 hours of oxygen to meet a surge need. The majority of those surveyed are also apparently counting on supplies to replenish oxygen supplies within 6 hours of a disaster.

According to the study, 80% of those surveyed said their hospitals maintained a dedicated supply of portable oxygen cylinders for a disaster or pandemic, yet 60% admitted to having less than 100 cylinders on hand in a typical month and 58% said their supply would be used up by a 40-patient surge in 24 hours.

It would appear that concerns are rife as to the ability to maintain an adequate supply of oxygen and possibly replenishing both portable oxygen cylinders and bulk tanks. Up to 58% of hospital respiratory therapy directors expect their medical gas supplier will be able to replenish supply within just 6 hours in an emergency situation, but others, however, are less optimistic.

Although on an average day 6 hours is a manageable response time, Airgas Puritan Medical senior vice president, Kelly Justice, believes this is an unrealistic timeframe in an emergency, “Although Airgas was able to respond within hours after Hurricane Katrina, we were the only medical gas supplier who could. Hospitals should be planning with the expectation that their suppliers may have difficulty reaching them in the first 24 hours after a disaster.”

Justice added, “In a widespread disaster, the supplier will face difficulty reaching all of its hospitals, due to road closures and evacuations. That’s why Airgas has created a National Oxygen Kit, so hospitals can maintain a dedicated supply of portable oxygen cylinders for those first hours after a disaster.”

Airgas Puritan Medical’s National Oxygen Kit is designed to supply hospitals with immediate access to emergency oxygen during extreme circumstances of disaster and, equipped with enough cylinders, regulators and masks to treat 40 people for up to a 24-hour period, is the first oxygen delivery system designed for immediate large-scale treatment.