Florida's oxygen shortage: 4 things to know

Florida hospitals are treating the highest number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began, straining the supply of medical oxygen, the Orlando Sentinel reported Aug. 13. 

Four things to know: 

  1. Florida hospitals were treating 15,358 COVID-19 patients as of Aug. 13, the Florida Hospital Association told the Orlando Sentinel.  Savannah Kelly, spokesperson for the association, told the publication that there's an "unprecedented level of patients in our hospitals that require significant levels of oxygen."

  2. Hospital officials have said their oxygen needs are being met, but the oxygen supply chain is strained.

    "We are able at this point to meet our needs," Marc Napp, MD, chief medical officer of Hollywood, Fla.-based Memorial Healthcare System, told reporters during an Aug. 4 briefing. "Our vendors are shipping our oxygen as we need it, but it's something we are keeping a close eye on."

    Airgas, a supplier of medical gases, told the Orlando Sentinel it is monitoring the supply of liquid medical oxygen "very closely" as cases rise.

  1. There is a shortage of drivers licensed to transport liquid oxygen, Alix Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Trucking Association, told the Orlando Sentinel. The pandemic spurred a wave of early retirements in the trucking industry, she said. The federal government has allowed drivers to be on the road longer during the pandemic, but trucking companies have been hesitant to extend hours due to liability concerns, Ms. Miller said.

  2. Providers have discovered that high-flow nasal oxygen increases survival rates compared to mechanical ventilation, Eric Toner, senior scientist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the Orlando Sentinel. But that uses five to 10 times the amount of oxygen as a mechanical ventilator, he said. 

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