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Oxygen demand remains high at South Florida hospitals

Posted at 6:43 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 18:44:22-04

Hospitals across the state continue to work to preserve oxygen supplies as dozens have reported having enough oxygen for two days, down from ideal supply levels that last a week.

In Martin County, Cleveland Clinic Martin North called on law enforcement in the last week to help ensure their oxygen would be delivered on time.

Last week, a driver in Palm City captured video footage of deputies escorting a tanker carrying oxygen to the hospital.

“We were glad to help expedite that,” said Martin County Lt. Todd Schimelfanick.

He says his team of deputies helped block six intersections, all to shave about ten minutes off of the roughly 20 minute drive time from the turnpike in Palm City to the hospital in Stuart.

“We probably did it in 9 minutes total,” Schimelfanick said. “It was paramount that they got this delivery on time… It showed by the representation that they had waiting there for this truck.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Cleveland Clinic Martin Health explained, “Like many hospitals across the state, Cleveland Clinic Florida is working closely with our oxygen vendor and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to ensure our oxygen supply remains sufficient across our hospitals. Last week, Cleveland Clinic Martin North Hospital was scheduled for an oxygen delivery. The truck making the delivery had mechanical problems, delaying delivery. Law enforcement provided an escort to expedite delivery of the truck to make sure we had sufficient oxygen.”

Within the last two weeks, the Florida Hospital Association reported 68 Florida hospitals have no more than a two day supply of oxygen.

“Hospitals right now are using 3 to 4 times the amount of oxygen that they would normally use,” said Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary Mayhew.

Mayhew says hospitals are following best practices to ween people off of oxygen as clinically appropriate, and monitor oxygen use.

“So they’re not getting their tanks completely filled which is why when you start to see a delay in your next delivery and you are already down lower than what is ideal, it creates room for some concern,” Mayhew said.

But she has hope that oxygen supply levels will soon start to nornalize as she is noticing a decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“A week and a half ago we were close to 17,000 COVID hospitalizations.Today we are down to 15,300,” Mayhew said.

Also on the Treasure Coast, Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and St. Lucie Medical Center are working to maintain oxygen supplies.

According to a spokesperson, “Over the last several weeks, we have put into place a number of tools to help ensure appropriate use, monitoring and delivery of oxygen supplies in our hospitals. At this time, we have sufficient oxygen supplies available to care for our patients, and contingency plans in place should the situation change.We cannot stress enough the importance of becoming vaccinated as it is the safest, most effective way to limit severe illness and prevent the need for hospitalization.”