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Kings North MLA calls on province to provide home oxygen users with adequate emergency supply

Kings North MLA John Lohr says the province must ensure that users of home oxygen have an adequate supply for emergency situations.
Kings North MLA John Lohr says the province must ensure that users of home oxygen have an adequate supply for emergency situations. - File Photo

Constituent reliant on home oxygen almost runs out in Dorian aftermath

KENTVILLE, N.S. —

When it comes to emergency preparedness, we’re told to have enough supplies on hand for 72 hours.

But what about people who rely on oxygen tanks to survive?

Kings North MLA John Lohr recently raised the matter in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. He asked Minister of Health and Wellness Randy Delorey about the Home Oxygen Services Program’s backup tank supply for emergency situations, such as during the recent prolonged power outage caused by post-tropical storm Dorian.

In the aftermath of the storm, one of Lohr’s constituents who relies on home oxygen, April Keddy, was without power for five days and almost ran out. The home oxygen program only provides for an “E tank” supply for emergency backup. If used continuously, an E tank will provide oxygen for approximately five to six hours.

Lohr said people who need home oxygen tend to use oxygen concentrators that require electricity. When the power is off, they rely on backup tanks. The contract for the backup tanks is currently in negotiations for renewal.

There are a few private companies across the province that are paid by the government to supply the backup tanks. Lohr said that, to these companies’ credit, they were going above and beyond what the contract stipulates and, in many cases, were supplying larger oxygen tanks in the wake of Dorian.

“There needs to be a better contract that recognizes that if the power is going to be out, they’re going to have to be reimbursed for better tanks,” Lohr said. “There just needs to be a better service arrangement for the providers with the government.”

He said one issue is that since the current contract came into effect in 2011, home oxygen usage levels have gone up. There are now more patients who require home oxygen - and patients who have to use more – than before.

With regard to Dorian, power outages affected the entire province, so home oxygen suppliers couldn’t pull resources from other areas to help meet the emergency demand. There was also a gasoline shortage at play in some areas because pumps need electricity to work.

“This contract is up for renewal this year and it needs to reflect modern realities of more severe storms, longer power outages, bigger demand for oxygen and people like April Keddy can’t be worrying if there will be enough oxygen here for me,” Lohr said.

CELL PHONE COVERAGE

Lohr said he also intends to bring up the issue of cell phone coverage in the Legislature. During Dorian, cell service went down in many areas of the province because towers have limited battery backup power.

Lohr said something he didn’t realize is that some people with land line telephones are actually reliant on cell towers. In some areas, the signal travels by wire for a distance before being re-routed through a cell tower.

Lohr said that, from an emergency management perspective, he wants to hold government to account on this matter.

“There has to be rules that require these cell phone providers to have adequate backup power,” Lohr said. “We are very reliant on cell phone technology now.”

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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