Brrracing for winter
In November and December, as temperatures in many parts of the country dropped, providers prepared to supply more respiratory-related products. They also winterized their vehicles and facilities.
Consolidated Medical in Newburgh, N.Y., expects its nebulizer business to increase by one-third from fall to spring.
"It's always been that way," said President Doug Crana. "People tend to get sick in the winter, especially kids with asthma. It's just a matter of making sure we have enough units in stock."
Healthline Medical Supply in Hibbing, Minn., sees an uptick in oxygen and CPAP prescriptions, but not necessarily due to the cold.
"We'll do 16 set-ups for bi-levels per month during the winter," said manager Stacey French. "I think that's just when people make time to go. During the summer, they're on vacation."
Apex Home Medical Systems in Helena, Mont., considers the winter months its "growth period," said Coordinator Lee Guay.
"We're stable all summer, but as soon as the cold weather hits, we see a spike," he said. "That's when we get all the respiratory-related stuff. We probably get 50% of our growth by February."
Because cold temperatures and snow make deliveries tricky, providers like Healthline activate emergency plans, when needed, and conduct "comprehensive vehicle reports."
"Daily, we make sure all the vans have enough gas and their tires have enough tread," French said. "We do load tests on batteries. It helps us get to clients quicker, and it helps us not get stranded."
Haunted by last year's ice storm, Citizens Memorial Healthcare in Bolivar, Mo., bought a $10,000 generator in October.
"The generator runs on propane, and we have enough propane on hand to keep it going for more than 36 hours," said Mike Calhoun, director of HME. "That way we can continue filling oxygen tanks if we lose electricity and go through our inventory."