The California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has said that surging Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations have resulted in oxygen supply issues which are affecting hospitals in the state.

According to a statement released yesterday (25th Jan), an increase in demand driven by Covid-19 patients has put a huge stress on the overall supply oxygen chain, from cylinders to trucks.

Cal OES stated that in hospitals, bulk oxygen systems are being strained by the number of patients using high flow supplemental oxygen, and therefore exceeding the designed capacity of such systems.

The state agency further said that facilities and home health care companies are experiencing challenges managing the supply of supplemental oxygen bottles and tanks.

Yesterday’s statement suggests this is leading to a shortage of bottles/cylinders and impacting gas companies’ abilities to fill replacement orders. 

How to help

As part of an effort to ease such strain, Cal OES has issued two ways in which both the public and industry can help out.

“If you use bulk oxygen or nitrogen in your industry, we need you to do what you can to conserve. We need as much capacity devoted to our medical community now as we possibly can,” the agency stated.

“It’s not just the molecules themselves but also the trucking capacity, the cylinders, the equipment. Every bit that can help free up capacity for our hospitals helps.”

Cal OES’ second plea was aimed at individuals who have previously held oxygen equipment, but not yet returned it. 

“We need everyone who no longer needs their at-home oxygen equipment to return it as soon as possible. Get in touch with your home oxygen provider to schedule an equipment return today,” the statement reads. 

“This is like the old video rental store days, if you don’t return the equipment it isn’t available for someone else to use. This equipment helps hospitals discharge patients who just need extra oxygen but don’t necessarily need to be in the hospital.”

What the state is doing

According yesterday’s statement, the state is taking additional actions to further mitigate and address the complex issues involving oxygen supply, and in doing so, has implemented a multi-pronged approach which includes the following actions:

  • Working with industry to expand capacity and keep hospital oxygen systems running
  • Staging two oxygen response teams in the Los Angeles Region
  • Increasing access to home oxygen
  • Leasing 4 mobile oxygen systems
  • Deploying 363 oxygen concentrators
  • Ensure facilities are aware of the issues associated with high flow oxygen usage within hospital facilities.
  • Support facilities with enhanced resources to ensure issues are addressed rapidly with scalable solutions.

“The state will continue its all of government approach, including working closely with the private sector, to solve the most pressing issues facing our medical system from this unprecedented surge,” Cal OES concluded.

Read more: CGA, Chart explain how industry is meeting demand for medical oxygen