Ambulances were running low on oxygen - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Ambulances were running low on oxygen

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - After years of having problems with a shortage of ambulances, it seems the Guam Fire Department now has more issues to deal with as they are behind in making sure they have oxygen tanks.  

Concerns have been raised from GFD personnel about the lack of equipment at the fire stations, but this time the concern is that they ran out of oxygen in the tanks of the medics at the Dededo Fire Station. GFD Spokesperson Joey San Nicolas explained the problem, saying, "This is the change over for the fiscal year and as the new fiscal year starts we closed out the old [purchase order], which had until September 30.  And we did do our standard refill in preparation, however, it was a rather busy weekend for us and yesterday we realized the exact urgency."

San Nicolas says the units have been forced to use a backup supply, as well as share with units that were completely out of oxygen.  It makes for an issue that has most in the community, including Reuben Olivas, worried.  "I don't think there's a day in the Guam Fire Department that doesn't administer to people in need experiencing medical emergencies, so it's very important," he said.

There are currently six medics up and running for the entire island and Olivas says it is crucial that each one be fully equipped with oxygen tanks.  "They're very important...if they weren't important we wouldn't have them on the ambulances to begin with.  They're part of our emergency medical protocols. As you know, oxygen is basic element to sustain life - without oxygen we would cease to exist we would die."

Late this afternoon San Nicolas said the purchase orders totaling an amount of $10,000 has been opened in order for the tanks to be refilled. He is optimistic that they will have each medic operating with the adequate amount of tanks needed.  "As of this time, the PO has been opened and I believe a copy of the PO is being sent to the vendor and we'll be able to refill our spare oxygen tanks," he stated.

"At no time was the public at any type of risk," he clarified.  "We did make moves to cross-load all out units to make sure that we do have adequate oxygen in all our units."

Olivas says that the department usually has things in order and should never be threatened by a shortage of oxygen tanks for the medics.  "It's not really common for us to be without oxygen on the ambulances," he said frankly. "It's uncommon, and I can see how this could happen between one budget year to the next budget year but in the past we've been able to bridge that gap."

He added, "I think any citizen should be concerned about that.  Our protocols do dictate that say, for instance, if you have a shortness of breath or have a medical emergency and you couldn't or say somebody sustained a heart attack or had a stroke we would have to administer oxygen."

Late this afternoon San Nicolas told KUAM News that the purchase orders have all been completed and the districts were instructed to refill their oxygen tanks.  The $10,000 refill should last for about two months.

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