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Low on oxygen, GGH declares ‘Code Orange’ emergency

'At no point did we run out of oxygen,' said hospital spokesperson
20181204 Guelph General Hospital Sign KA
Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday file photo

An emergency “Code Orange” was declared at Guelph General Hospital on Friday after officials discovered the supply of liquid oxygen given to patients was getting low.

“At no point did we run out of oxygen,” said Perry Hagerman, the hospital’s senior communications specialist. 

The hospital has two main tanks it uses for holding liquid oxygen, he said, explaining one is “large” and the other is “very large.” The smaller of the two is typically used as a reserve supply.

“Earlier today we found out that our supply had switched over to the reserve tank without our alarms going off,” Hagerman said. “Because of that we ordered contingency plans and ordered urgent delivery of oxygen.”

Hagerman said a supply of oxygen arrived at the hospital shortly before 5 p.m.

"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," said a later news release from the hospital.

"In the end, the oxygen delivery did arrive well before all reserves were used.

“We will always err on the side of caution when the safety of our patients is at stake,” said Marianne Walker, President and CEO. “Our team did a great job quickly putting plans and personnel in place should we have needed to use extraordinary measures.”

Ambulances were redirected for a couple of hours to ensure there would be no new patients requiring oxygen.

Walker said this has never happened at the hospital before.

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.