Low Oxygen Makes Guelph General Hospital Declare Code Orange

It’s the mechanical malfunction you definitely don’t want to deal with while in the middle of a respiratory infection-based pandemic, but on Friday Guelph General Hospital had to hit a code orange because levels were low in the oxygen tank. It’s a struggle that the hospital probably didn’t want to have as they continue to battle COVID cases in hospital and an intensive care unit that’s bursting.

“Something like this hasn’t happened before, but the process went exceptionally well because our staff are trained in emergency response,” said Hospital President and CEO Marianne Walker in a statement. “We will always err on the side of caution when the safety of our patients is at stake. Our team did a great job quickly putting plans and personnel in place should we have needed to use extraordinary measures.”

Here’s the story from the Hospital’s media release:

Earlier today, Guelph General Hospital discovered the level in its large onsite oxygen storage tank had become so low the hospital was using its reserve storage tank. An emergency delivery of oxygen was arranged but to be cautious the hospital took extra steps to conserve its oxygen usage and put into place a system to support those patients in the Intensive Care Unit who were ventilated along with the many other patients in the hospital on oxygen support. As required in a situation like this, a Code Orange was called.

One step taken was the hospital connected its store of large, portable oxygen tanks into the oxygen lines supplying its ICU, which at the time had seven ventilated patients. Not only did that secure the supply to those patients, it slowed down the rate of overall draw of oxygen from outdoor reserve tank. As an extra precaution in case extra hands were needed, staff were brought in or asked to stay once their shift was over. Ambulances were redirected for a couple of hours to ensure there would be no new patients requiring oxygen. Community partners including Guelph EMS and regional hospitals assisted as well.

External technicians have been brought in to find out why the main storage tank’s remote alarms didn’t go off as they should when the stored oxygen level was below a certain point. Until resolved, the hospital will have many safety processes in place including manually checking the tank’s level regularly.

The last time the Hospital called a code orange was September 23 when they saw a surge in emergency patients that forced the administration to call in extra staff, cancel non-emergency surgeries, and divert patients to over hospitals where possible.

This struggle comes in the wake of the ongoing conflicts caused by COVID-19. The latest Waterloo Wellington Hospital Capacity report on Friday pegs ICU occupancy at Guelph General Hospital at 110 per cent, up from 100 per cent at the beginning of week, and still the highest ICU occupancy of the four major hospitals in the region. Acute care occupancy at Guelph General is 96 per cent, while 67 staff members out of the Hospital’s compliment of nearly 2,000 is currently out sick from COVID.

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