Some U.S. hospitals struggling with oxygen supplies

Better Health & Wellness

Antonio Gomez breathes with the help of an oxygen tank at home in Simi Valley, Calif. Gomez is recovering at home after a three-week bout with COVID-19, which included a 12-day stay in the hospital. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

WICHITA, Kan. (NBC) – Oxygen supplies are at critical lows in COVID-19 hot spots around the country.

Hospital administrators in Arizona and California are reporting oxygen use up to four times the pre-COVID rate.

It’s a resource scarcity not originally anticipated by medical staff, with one doctor telling reporters that lack of oxygen wasn’t even something his staff thought they needed to worry about. In some cases, oxygen is running out entirely, sending staff to scramble for resources.

“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,” West Valley ER physician Brandon Lawrence said.

On the streets of Los Angeles, paramedics are limited in which patients can even receive oxygen after a new order by the LA county emergency medical services agency.

Arizona’s Banner healthcare system, which cares for many of the state’s COVID patients, says their oxygen use is up 30% from last year.

Cobre Valley Medical Center in Globe, Ariz. says it is using up to four times the amount of oxygen as normal.

The biggest concern comes for smaller hospitals that may run out completely and struggle to replenish resources.

Several doctors told KPNX news they are terrified that soon they will have to ration care, essentially deciding who gets life-saving care, and who does not.

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