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Providers battle surge, worry about inventory 

Providers battle surge, worry about inventory 

YARMOUTH, Maine – As COVID-19 cases spike across the country, HME providers are seeing a spike in demand for home oxygen therapy, so much so that they’re worrying about their supply of concentrators. 

Provider Woody O’Neal has seen a threefold increase in oxygen and services since December and says he’s concerned the health care system hasn’t seen the worst of it. 

“My concern is that this post-holiday surge could outstrip capacity,” said O’Neal, vice president of Pelham, Ala.-based O2 Neal Medical. “I would hate to tell a hospital to keep the patient. That’s the worst thing – it’s counterproductive.” 

Provider Jason Jones had a 24-hour period during which his company set up a record number of new patients on oxygen. 

“It’s completely nuts,” said Jones, president of Jones Medical Supply in Troy, Ala. “That got us in a bind on equipment and we’re on the verge of needing to hire.” 

Providers looking to stock up on concentrators to meet the increased demand are having to wait. Provider Todd Usher in January was waiting on an order of 50 concentrators expected to be shipped in mid-February. 

“Where we are now is, we’re ordering a bunch,” said Usher, co-founder of Home Oxygen Modesto, Calif. “We haven’t run out of anything yet.” 

Some providers report back orders of up to three months. 

“We’re really struggling with the volume because of the delays in shipping from manufacturers,” said Irene Magee, vice president and director of Green Island, N.Y.-based Northeast Home Medical Equipment.  

Providers are also juggling a wide range of patient therapy needs for a disease with a lot of unknowns. Some patients only need oxygen for a day or two, while others are longer term or have higher-flow needs. 

“They are not your garden variety oxygen patients,” said O’Neal. “These are patients with elevated needs – 5 to 7 liters is not uncommon. The higher liter flow requirements require us to have more advanced equipment in the home.” 

One bright spot: the majority of COVID patients they are seeing do recover, says Jones. 

“It’s good to be on this side of it and see we are doing something that helps in the end,” he said. 


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