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The Effect of Covid-19 on Medical Gas Systems–Part 2

Last month we discussed the negative effects of Covid-19 on Oxygen Delivery Systems and some short-term remedies, as well as the increased demand on Medical Air Systems. This month, we will continue with some suggestions for longer term actions.

Analysis of Piping Distribution Network

From a longer-term perspective, it is recommended that an analysis of the actual piping systems be performed to identify areas of the facility that might be improved, or that could be used for patients requiring ventilators.

As part of The Joint Commission Environment of Care Standard EC.02.05.01, a facility is required to map out the distribution of utility systems. By knowing the layout and sizing of a piped medical gas system ahead of time, a facility can make educated, time-sensitive decisions as to the capabilities of their systems throughout the building. This will allow for a smoother transition should a facility elect to utilize different parts of the building for surge capacity.

Verification of New or Temporary Installations

With the flood of COVID-19 patients, many facilities have looked at adding permanent or temporary alternate patient care spaces within their facilities. If either option is utilized, it is important to remember a verification is needed for all medical gas installations.

NFPA 99-2018, 5.1.12.11 requires that inspection and testing be performed on all new piped gas systems, additions, renovations, temporary installations, and repaired systems. The proper installation and testing of these systems are paramount to delivering safe patient care.

Ongoing Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance

To control the spread of COVID-19, facilities struggle with the decision to limit the number of people walking through the doors of the hospital. This includes vendors providing ongoing inspection, testing, and maintenance services.

While medical gas technicians are considered essential workers, and most facilities seem to be continuing with their regularly scheduled inspections, some have elected to postpone inspections by applying for an 1135 Waiver from CMS. While perfectly acceptable to go this route, it is important to note that TJC and American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) recommendations state that medical gas annual inspections must be resumed within 60 days of the state of emergency (SOE) being lifted.

Additional Resources:
ASHE, CMS has Issued a Blanket Waiver for ITM
ASHE, COVID-19 Emergency Declaration Blanket Waivers or Health Care Providers

Conclusion

It certainly is not business as usual in the world of healthcare right now, but it is still essential to continue addressing potential risks and to stay focused on the needs of patients. While this can require thinking outside the box or considering different aspects of your medical gas system, it can also be a time to evaluate your existing system, develop new best practices, and determine how to be better prepared moving forward.

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