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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Short on oxygen concentrators, a Montana hospital is asking for the public’s help

Oxygen concentrator
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Oxygen concentrator

Montana hospitals continue to face unprecedented pressure from a record-high number of COVID cases, combined with supply chain disruptions and workforce shortages. In the Helena area, oxygen concentrators are suddenly in short supply. St. Peter’s Health, the local hospital, is now turning to the community for help.

Oxygen concentrators create pure oxygen from the air. Prior to COVID, physicians routinely sent these portable devices home with lung disease or congestive heart failure patients.

“But with the current pandemic, there has been an incredible increase in the number of people who become ill and they require this supplemental oxygen.”

That’s Dr. Todd Wampler, family physician and president of Helena’s St. Peter's Health Medical Group.

The COVID surge has led to an unprecedented demand for concentrators. Wampler says hospitals and clinics region wide are tapped out.

“Everybody is hard-up for concentrators. We have never run into this kind of shortage. We’ve been sending people home with these oxygen concentrators in record numbers and it’s stressed our supply.”

“Everybody is hard-up for concentrators. We have never run into this kind of shortage. We’ve been sending people home with these oxygen concentrators in record numbers and it’s stressed our supply.”

Wampler says the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard might be able to send some units.

“But one of the things we thought is, gosh, you know we know we have people out there in the community who had need of an oxygen concentrator in the past for one reason or another; they got better, they didn’t get the thing turned back. People have these in their homes from time to time and they just haven’t done anything with them.”

St Peter’s is asking local residents who no longer have any need for their rented oxygen concentrators to return the devices to their original vendor. There, they’ll be professionally cleaned and put back into service.

Montana Hospital Association spokesperson Katy Peterson tells MTPR sustained, record-high hospitalizations statewide are ratcheting up pressure on all systems and supplies. According to Peterson, hospitals are concerned about their ability to continue managing this situation in the long-term.

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