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Concern oxygen may have to be rationed at Derry hospital due to increase in number of patients


(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

Concern has been expressed at a Derry hospital that oxygen supplies are running low, and could have to be rationed.

The Western Health Trust is using 800-900 litres of oxygen per minute, around three times the normal level.

Sean Gibson, head of estate management at the trust, told the BBC: “I am concerned that there isn’t enough oxygen to treat patients, it’s the biggest concern.

“If we’re experiencing the growth in numbers that we have then we may not have enough oxygen to treat them. We may have to ration oxygen, it’s that serious.”

The hospital uses a green, amber and red alert system to monitor oxygen levels. While the levels are between green and amber, last week they were edging towards red.

Mr Gibson added: “If things continue as they are then we will be in the red very, very quickly which is a very, very serious situation. This plant has never seen this type of oxygen usage. It’s designed to deliver but we don’t really know until we see it happening.

“I don’t think we’re going to run out of oxygen, what’s going to happen is we won’t have enough oxygen for all the patients that come through the hospital and doctors will have to think about who will get oxygen, what levels of oxygen they will be able to give them.

“That is really concerning that we wouldn’t have the adequate levels of oxygen to treat the patients that are coming through our doors.”

Chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle said the supply of oxygen to hospitals across Northern Ireland is monitored daily, and mitigation measures are in place if the high level of demand continues.

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“That is one of the reasons why the Belfast City Hospital remains the Nightingale Hospital, because there is increased infrastructure and a lot of work done to ensure that it would have significant oxygen supplies to maintain a very high level of ICU,” she told the BBC.

“This is critical, oxygen is part of our medicine therapy, it is looked at on a daily basis. There is a situation report provided every day on this, and I can assure that there is an oxygen supply available.

“I absolutely accept it is under huge demand with a high number of respiratory patients requiring assistance with ventilation and non-ventilation techniques.

“Everyone is getting the oxygen that they need and should it continue at a very high level there are other mitigations that can be put in place to make sure that everybody receives the oxygen they need, by either daily supply of cylinders or by managing the hospital network in a way that allows patients that need that high level of oxygen to be treated elsewhere.”

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