Have oxygen, will travel - maybe

Sunday, June 30, 2002

WASHINGTON - The industry appeared to make some headway in late May when HME representatives met with Department of Transportation officials to discuss revamping travel oxygen restrictions.

"It was somewhere between a stand-up double and a triple," said Phil Porte, executive director of the National Home Oxygen Patients Association, who attended the meeting. "They understand the problems. They really do. I don't think anyone from our side walked away saying, 'This was lip service.'"

The current problems are myriad. Under existing DOT regulations, oxygen patients can't take their own systems on planes and there is a ban on liquid O2. What's worse, some airlines don't provide oxygen, and those that do, often do so inadequately, without, for example, any understanding of liter flows.

Additionally, since airlines don't provide oxygen outside the plane, providers often face the logistic challenge of escorting a patient to and from the plane.

The industry's goal is to work with the DOT to revise the regulations to allow oxygen patients to travel with their own portable oxygen equipment. And from the DOT's response during the May meeting, the chance of that happening seem pretty good, although no time line has been set, Porte said.

Prior to the meeting, DOT officials had "a 1960s" view of portable oxygen and were fascinated by the new technology that now exists, such as portable concentrators and compact liquid systems, Porte said.

"We have a path we want to go down, and we sense they agree," Porte said. HME