PHOENIX — With no cure for COVID-19, oxygen is one of the main ways doctors are able to help those with the virus. But in Los Angeles, emergency responders have been ordered to only give oxygen to certain patients in order to conserve it.
“There’s no reason that if it’s happening there that it can’t happen here,” Dr. Brandon Lawrence, an ER physician in the West Valley, said.
Lawrence said with all the concerns of the pandemic, oxygen running out did not come to mind until this week when his ER was packed with COVID-19 patients.
“We had COVID people admitted just sitting in triage chairs didn’t even have a bed for them, and they’re like, ‘Hey this is our last oxygen tank, like portable oxygen’ and so I was like that was not something that was on my radar either in my hospital and so we were able to scramble and find a whole bunch more but you know within our system,” Lawrence said.
Due to the way the coronavirus affects people, oxygen is often imperative for those who are battling it.
“That’s our main weapon against this disease,” Lawrence said.
An order from Los Angeles County’s Emergency Medical Services Agency is now limiting which patients paramedics can give oxygen to.
While the Army Corps of Engineers has been deployed to fix up hospital oxygen delivery systems in California because of the overload.
In Arizona, Banner Health, which cares for many of the state’s COVID-19 patients, tells 12 News their oxygen usage is up 30% from last year, and Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center said they’re using up to four times the amount of oxygen they normally do.
Neither Banner nor Cobre Valley said they’re having an issue getting the resource.
“It’s not a unique to LA County problem,” Mark Nicotera said. “It’s a national problem.”
Nicotera is CEO of AZ MediQuip, a retail medical supply company in the Valley.
He said they’ve been noticing delays since March, and it’s taking several weeks for them to get items in.
“The oxygen source itself, be them tanks or concentrators, there’s just far more demand than supply,” Nicotera said.
Lawrence worries most about smaller hospitals running out of oxygen, as the healthcare system continues to be taxed with COVID-19 cases continuing to go up in Arizona.
“We’re going to have to start rationing care and that’s a really terrifying thought that I doubt anyone in medicine wants to make,” Lawrence said.
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