Newman Regional Health asks patients to bring inhalers to hospital with them

Emporia, Kan.-based Newman Regional Health is asking patients who use an inhaler to bring it with them to the hospital or emergency room after a change in protocol to cut infection risk caused a shortage, according to the Emporia Gazette. 

The hospital recently changed its protocol to use inhalers over nebulizers in an effort to cut the risk of spreading COVID-19. Nebulizers work by converting liquid medications into a gas that is inhaled by the patient. However the aerosol medication is suspended in the room and presents an infection risk as the virus could be spread through the droplets in the air, according to the report. 

"One of our concerns with the pandemic and the symptoms of COVID-19 being so variable — with some patients showing no symptoms at all — the use of an inhaler in the hospital is preferred over a nebulizer," Donny Bellomy, director of cardiopulmonary services for Newman Regional Health told the Gazette. 

As a result, the hospital switched to providing inhalers to patients or asking them to bring their own from home.

Ashley Edwards, PharmD, Newman Regional Health's pharmacy director, said the protocol to use inhalers over nebulizers has caused a medication shortage. 

"It's been difficult for us to maintain an inventory on our shelf for inhalers, which is why we've been asking our patients to bring in their own medication," she told the Gazette. "In a normal situation, if we were not in a pandemic, we normally would not allow the use of patient-owned medications."

Dr. Edwards said that the inhalers brought from home by the patient will be checked by hospital staff. This will include making sure the inhaler is safe to use in a hospital and ensuring the prescription is verified. 

To date, the hospital has been able to adequately maintain the inventory of inhalers needed to care for patients, Dr. Edwards said. 

She added that asking patients to bring inhalers will help preserve the health system's inventory.

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