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Calgary hospitals assess oxygen use ahead of expected influx of COVID-19 patients

CALGARY — Alberta Health Services has asked medical staff at hospitals in Calgary to take steps to conserve oxygen ahead of a potential pandemic-related increase in demand.

In a letter sent to Calgary Zone Adult Acute Care Sites dated Nov. 27, Dr. Jonathan Gaudet, medical advisor of respiratory therapy for the Calgary Zone, and Carmella Steinke, executive director and respiratory therapy programmatic co-lead, called on physicians, nursing staff and respiratory therapists to assess patient oxygen requirements and update orders.

Staff are encouraged to target a patient’s lowest tolerable blood oxygen level.

According to Gaudet and Steinke, the move is in response to current limitations in the bulk oxygen systems at several sites in the Calgary Zone — including the Rockyview General Hospital, Foothills Medical Centre and Peter Lougheed Centre — and the expected increase in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AHS officials, in a statement sent to CTV News Monday afternoon, say there remains “an adequate supply of oxygen to meet patient needs now and in the days ahead, as we continue to care for all patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The O2 monitoring and conservation memo circulated was to remind clinicians to provide oxygen therapy 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,” read the statement.

“Proactive upgrades to the internal medical gas distribution systems and other methods of increasing oxygen delivery capacity are planned to accommodate for potential increasing patient demands in the weeks and months ahead.

“This is anticipatory planning work that has been occurring in the background as COVID-19 patient volumes increase. In the meantime, AHS is working with clinicians and service areas that routinely provide oxygen therapy to ensure appropriate use for patients that are recovering from illness in order to appropriately conserve oxygen resources. “

AHS anticipates the upgrading of its bulk oxygen systems will be complete by June 2021.

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