Montana health system asking public to return oxygen concentrators for reuse

Hospitals in Montana are facing an unprecedented surge in demand for oxygen concentrators, and one health system is asking patients to return their used devices to vendors to combat shortages, Montana Public Radio reported Oct. 21. 

St. Peter's Health, based in Helena, Mont., is asking local residents who no longer need their oxygen concentrators to return them to the vendor, where they will be cleaned and reused. 

Oxygen concentrators create pure oxygen from the air, Montana Public Radio reported, and pre-COVID, physicians often sent them home with patients with conditions like lung disease or congestive heart failure. 

But a COVID-19 surge in Montana has caused a boost in demand for the devices, and many hospitals and clinics in the Helena area are facing shortages, according to Montana Public Radio

"Everybody is hard up for concentrators. We have never run into this kind of shortage. We've been sending people home with these oxygen concentrators in record numbers, and it's stressed our supply," Todd Wampler, MD,  president of St. Peter's Health Medical Group, told Montana Public Radio.  

Dr. Wampler said the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard may be able to send some of the devices to their health system. 

Katy Peterson, a spokesperson for the Montana Hospital Association, told Montana Public Radio that sustained, record-high hospitalizations across Montana are putting pressure on all systems and supplies, and hospitals are concerned about their ability to manage the situation long-term.  

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