Supplier warns of 'astounding rates' of oxygen use in hospitals

Norco, a regional supplier of medical oxygen based in Boise, Idaho, has sent a notice to hospitals that oxygen is being used at "astounding rates" and asked the hospitals to conserve oxygen supplies when possible, the Idaho Statesman reported Sept. 30.

Norco supplies oxygen to hospitals in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West. The company sent letters to hospitals in Idaho Sept. 27 stating: "While there is not an immediate shortage of oxygen, there is a tremendous amount of growing stress to the supply chain network. Many hospitals have already pushed their bulk storage systems to limits of requiring emergency upgrades," according to the Idaho Statesman

The company sent a similar advisory to hospitals in Oregon and Washington, the Idaho Press reported. 

Elias Margonis, president of Norco, told the Idaho Statesman that hospitals in the Treasure Valley region in Idaho "are probably in their highest mode of oxygen consumption that we've ever seen." 

He said the company is having trouble getting adequate supplies of oxygen to rural hospitals, as they're harder to get to and have smaller oxygen tanks, meaning oxygen has to be delivered more frequently, diverting resources for delivering oxygen to other hospitals. 

Saint Alphonsus Health System told the Idaho Statesman it's taking steps to monitor its oxygen usage.

"We were notified by our main supplier of the supply chain issues and have taken measures to try and ease the crunch," a Saint Alphonsus spokesperson said. 

Frank Johnson, MD, a physician at St. Luke's in Boise, told the Idaho Statesman that the health system is having trouble routing enough oxygen into some of its buildings.

"We are facing a situation in some of our hospitals, our big hospitals, where the building itself isn't designed to allow for the administration of all the oxygen that’s coming through the walls," he said. 

Brian Whitelock, president of the Idaho Hospital Association, said Sept. 28: "I never thought I would say these words [that oxygen is becoming a scarce resource]," the Idaho Press reported.

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