COVID-19 Treatment and Hospital Oxygen Systems

Hospitals worldwide are beginning to feel the strain of high oxygen consumption related to COVID-19 patient treatment.

Sadly, this situation is poised to repeat itself across the USA and worldwide. Hospital oxygen systems, while designed with some amount of excess capacity, were typically sized based on clinical usage of about 6 liters per minute per patient. COVID-19 therapies are evolving, but as of today a COVID patient might require up to 60 liters per minute or more, a 10-fold increase in demand.

With a large population of COVID-19 patients in a single hospital, the oxygen system can be strained throughout. Main and branch distribution piping may become seriously overloaded, leading to insufficient pressure at affected outlets. Increased velocity in the piping accelerates wear and may lead to failure in extreme cases. Bulk cryogenic systems may overload their vaporizers, leading to pressure reduction at the source which compounds the pressure loss concern downstream.

The recent events in Los Angeles, Egypt and elsewhere should be a wakeup call to all hospital facility managers to take a hard look at their oxygen systems and carry out any repairs or upgrades that may be required to ensure their hospitals can continue to deliver oxygen under these unprecedented demands.