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Facing Deadly Ice Storms, Home Medical Equipment Providers in New England Mobilize to Protect Oxygen Patients
Date:12/16/2008

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Home oxygen providers in New England prepared for the deadly ice storm that struck last week and have responded with extra visits and contacts with patients receiving home oxygen therapy. An oxygen patient who uses an oxygen system that runs on electricity must have a back-up supply of oxygen. Oxygen therapy is critical to more than one million Americans who suffer from respiratory illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

On Friday, December 12, with no electrical power or telephone service at the Home Care Specialists, Inc. facility in Haverhill, Mass., the company implemented its disaster response program. With the help of a generator, the company was able to handle patient calls using cell phones and deliver more than 100 emergency backup oxygen cylinders to patients without power. The following day, the company delivered and serviced more than 60 emergency backup oxygen cylinders and another 30 were serviced on Sunday, December 14.

William E. Desmarais, a respiratory therapist, is co-owner of Home Care Specialists, which provides durable medical equipment and services to northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. The company cares for more than 800 oxygen patients who were forced to rely on backup emergency gaseous cylinders provided by HCS following the power failures caused by the New England ice storms on December 11 and 12.

"In many cases, home oxygen companies provide home oxygen service over and above what is required by accrediting agencies and by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services," said Desmarais.

"We have heard similar stories from many of our members who provide home oxygen equipment," said Karyn Estrella, executive director of the New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association. "One of our members, Clinical 1 Home Medical in Hingham, Mass., delivered oxygen to a nursing home whose back-up generator failed and they ran out of tanks. They also transported oxygen to an ambulance company in Worcester who had exhausted their supplies."

The typical Medicare home oxygen user is a 73 year-old who suffers from late-stage COPD. Approximately 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. An estimated 12 to 15 million more remain undiagnosed. The American Association for Homecare represents durable medical equipment providers, manufacturers, and other organizations in the homecare community. Website: www.aahomecare.org.


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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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