SYOXSA, Inc. is overcoming challenges to supply hospitals with life-saving oxygen needed to treat coronavirus (Covid-19) patients in the El Paso area of Texas, US.

Some hospitals in the US are struggling to provide enough oxygen for the sickest coronavirus patients according to reports, and a bottleneck in delivering oxygen led to Los Angeles County officials to order paramedics to preserve supplies earlier in January. The Emergency Medical Services Agency advised that supplemental oxygen should only be given to patients with oxygen saturation below 90% in an email sent out on January 4.

The US Army Corps of Engineers crews has also been helping hospitals short on oxygen to deal with frozen oxygen pipes, upgrade oxygen systems, help deliver and refill oxygen tanks systems.

Companies like SYOXSA are also playing their part.

Esteban Trejo, general manager of SYOXSA, Inc. said the El Paso-based industrial and medical gas distributor has needed to change its suppliers in order to keep local hospitals supplied with oxygen.

“We normally pick up from MATHESON about four hours north of us in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but they have told us that they do not have enough product to supply us, so we have been picking up from Air Products in Chandler, Arizona,” Trejo told gasworld.

Source: SYOXSA

The unique Air Products system at the El Paso Convention Center for the contractor SLS

“When Air Products’s Chandler plant went down briefly, we went to Air Products’s plant in Baytown, Texas, near Houston, which is about a two-and-a-half day trip. El Paso is an island in the desert, so we have always had to travel and be ‘extra independent’ for product. We own two medical liquid oxygen trailers, two liquid carbon dioxide trailers, five helium tube trailers, our and extra bulk tanks.”

Trejo continued, “The situation has been critical since late October, but has recently calmed down towards the end of December. Air Products has been a great partner for us and we have installed a unique mobile bulk system at the El Paso Convention Center (pictured).”

In some hospitals, old or outdated equipment has seen the huge volume of cold liquid oxygen being piped to patients’ rooms freezing the equipment, pipes, valves and vaporisers which can lead to the oxygen distribution system in a hospital to stop working.

What has caused any concern over oxygen supply in the El Paso area?

“The concern regarding oxygen is twofold I believe,” Trejo said.

“Firstly, we learned how to treat Covid differently (high flow oxygen vs. ventilators) and hence an increased demand for oxygen and a decreased supply in hospital beds given the longer treatment times. And secondly, the temperature. In early November it snowed in El Paso – which is rare – and that caused the hospitals’ vaporisers to function less efficiently.”

There has also been pressure on the availability of portable oxygen cylinders and the concentrators that pull oxygen from the air.

“The demand for oxygen cylinders has doubled,” Trejo said.

“And we are bringing in about a trailer of medical liquid oxygen a week for the eight temporary ‘tent’ hospitals that we are servicing for BCFS + the main temporary hospital at the Convention Center that we are servicing for SLS. We have had several people call in for oxygen cylinders. Cyl-Tec has been a great supplier and has help us keep up and replenish our stock. There has been a lot of interest for bulk purchases from customers across the border in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.”

SYOXSA purchased a second liquid oxygen trailer in late-November/early-December in order to help the company manage increased demand.

Source: SYOXSA

SYOXSA provides oxygen outside of one of the eight hospitals it has been serving in El Paso

SYOXSA has been providing oxygen to eight temporary hospitals set up to treat an overspill of patients suffering from Covid-19 around El Paso and one in Lubbock, northern Texas, as well as the bigger/main temporary hospital at the El Paso Convention Center. 

What resolutions has SYOXSA found to address the oxygen supply concerns?

“In general I would say partnering with great contractors, such as BCFS and SLS, and great suppliers like Air Products,” Trejo said.

“They really know how to get the job done. I would also say to partner with independents, who are more nimble and help each other out. Four Corners Welding Supply/Amber Chisamore was also helping us stay afloat before we acquired our second liquid oxygen trailer. We couldn’t have done this without our IWDC partners.”

Southern California has been hit particularly hard by coronavirus with soaring coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths in the last two months, and Los Angeles County facilities remain inundated with critically ill patients.

California-based Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organisation, has delivered 200 oxygen concentrators to Antelope Valley Hospital in Los Angeles County, amid reports of oxygen shortages and a record number of Covid-19 hospitalisations.

The oxygen concentrators will enable the hospital to safely discharge patients who are stable but require at-home breathing support, while making room for those in need of intensive care in Los Angeles county, which has 10 million residents.

“Direct Relief is working to address these shortages and relieve pressure on hospitals by supporting facilities like Antelope Valley Hospital with oxygen concentrators and critical medical supplies,” Direct Relief said in a statement.

“Since January 2020, Direct Relief has delivered more than 3,400 oxygen concentrators to hospitals and critical care facilities in the United States and abroad.”