WVU Medicine hospital diverted patients because of low oxygen supply

A West Virginia hospital had to divert patients from both its emergency room and hospital Sept. 14 due to a low supply of oxygen, a spokesperson confirmed to Becker's.

WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg, W.V., also canceled nonurgent surgeries and issued a mini-disaster declaration. 

Steve Altmiller, CEO of the hospital, said in a statement shared with Becker's that the hospital lifted the diversion at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 as the situation stabilized. The mini-disaster declaration was revoked and nonurgent surgeries are being evaluated case by case. 

Mr. Altmiller said that the low oxygen supply was caused by the increased amount of oxygen needed to treat COVID-19 patients. 

"The issue came about due to the extraordinary increase in oxygen required to treat predominantly COVID patients. The current COVID census has exceeded its level experienced last January," Mr. Altmiller said.

He said the hospital first saw decreased pressure from its oxygen tanks early the morning of Sept. 13, and a mini-disaster alert was issued late morning Sept. 14. The hospital shifted to supplemental oxygen from H-cylinder tanks and added emergency oxygen tank support to stabilize the hospital's systems. Mr. Altmiller said the hospital is "developing permanent solutions" to the problem. 

"The continued increase of COVID infection in the community has severely taxed healthcare systems across the region. Area health systems consistently report ICUs at capacity, staffing shortages due to ill staff, and physical facilities operating at critical levels. We encourage residents to continue preventive measures and become vaccinated," Mr. Altmiller said.

West Virginia has seen a rapid jump in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Once a national leader in the vaccine rollout, the state now has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with only 39.9 percent of the total population fully vaccinated as of Sept. 13. 

The state reported 2,319 new virus cases Sept. 9, surpassing its previous single-day case record of 2,164 cases set Dec. 31. As of Sept. 12, the state's seven-day new case average was 1,760, up from 23 average daily cases on July 5. Hospitalizations also hit a record high this week, as the state reported 852 patients as of Sept. 13. The previous record of 818 hospitalizations was set Jan. 5. 


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