Mid-South hospitals working to conserve oxygen as COVID cases surge

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — First, the recent COVID surge led to a shortage of hospital beds and staff. Now, oxygen is in low supply.

“It’s a huge, huge lifesaver,” Julia Bullock, who contracted COVID back in July, said.

Just three weeks ago, doctors told Bullock she only had a 20 percent chance of surviving her COVID and pneumonia symptoms.

She said being put onto an oxygen machine, which she now relies on from home, is what saved her life.

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“I’ve been able to wean down to a liter at a time,” Bullock said. “I have to sleep with it and carry it with me.”

Now, some hospitals in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana report a scarcity of oxygen supply.

So far, no hospitals in the Mid-South have reported a shortage, but they are working on ways to conserve it.

“Whenever we can, we try to wean our patients off the oxygen, which is better for them too,” Amanda McGruder, the director of respiratory care at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, said. “We don’t allow the oxygen to just run. We make sure it’s turned off when not in use.”

McGruder said her hospital recently updated their oxygen reserve tank - which now holds double the capacity.

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“So now, we have an extra 24 hours in the event a truck was unable to make it here due to a hurricane or something like that,” she said.

As for survivors like Bullock, she’s thankful for a second chance.

“I’d rather have this and survive and be home with my family,” she said.

McGruder at Mississippi Baptist said they check oxygen supply levels daily and are constantly in contact with their vendor.