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Oxygen in demand: AHS says O2 memo is ‘anticipatory planning’ for COVID-19 cases

Oxygen demand at Calgary hospitals could be an issue with rising COVID-19 hospital admissions, an internal AHS memo shows.

The memo, circulated on social media Monday, said that limitations on bulk oxygen systems at some adult acute care sites and an “expected increase in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic” prompted them to reduce demand on the system.

“Clinical measures require everyone to engage in oxygen conservation measures immediately,” the memo read.

That includes targeting the “lowest tolerable SpO2” for patients.

This comes as Alberta reported another 1,608 COVID-19 cases Sunday. Further, 435 people are in hospital and 95 are in the intensive care unit (ICU).

The memo outlines specific limitations at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre, the Peter Lougheed Centre and the Rockyview General Hospital.

Right now, of the hospitalizations, 138 are in Calgary, with 33 in the ICU.

The province has said previously that they had targeted 70 ICU patients as the benchmark for when we could start to see more impact on Alberta’s health system.

Response to the memo on social media was swift.

AHS said there is no danger to the supply

In a response to questions, AHS said that the Calgary Zone has an adequate supply of oxygen to meet patient needs now and in the days ahead.

“AHS continues to provide safe and appropriate care for all patients including those in need of oxygen therapy,” read an email response.

James Wood with AHS wrote that the O2 monitoring and conservation memo was sent out as a reminder for clinicians to administer oxygen in an “evidence-informed, responsible manner and to be proactive in safeguarding the resource recognizing that we anticipate large numbers of patients in need of oxygen therapy.”

Upgrades were started in the spring to internal gas distribution systems. The limitation isn’t in the supply of the gas, AHS said. The problem is the delivery capacity of the pipes delivering it from a centralized source.

Other methods of increasing oxygen delivery capacity are also being planned, Wood said.

“This is anticipatory planning work that has been occurring in the background as COVID-19 patient volumes increase,” the response read.