CO poisoning deaths at nursing home are a cause for concern and call for greater precautions

Many people are understandably concerned about the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning. Of all chronic diseases, however, according to the CDC, COPD has by far the highest mortality rate. That’s why it’s so disheartening to hear of a nursing home resident suffering severe CO poisoning — then being resuscitated a few hours later, with CO still in his body. The 20-year-old patient, Steve Williams, died four hours after being hooked up to a ventilator at Rochester Rehabilitation Center in Ohio. Williams, who was diagnosed with COPD in 2011, had been undergoing medical treatment at the facility since March. During that time, the hospital’s closest neighbor, Adena Health System, had temporarily stopped issuing oxygen vouchers to Rochester residents, The Southern Morning Journal reported. But in spite of an Ohio Health Department violation that stated “it was not economical or practical to dispense oxygen vouchers because the oxygen system dispensers” were “out of service due to a replacement,” between March 29 and May 2, six residents without service were hooked up to breathing machines while hospitalized, and seven others were warned not to use the machines for a time. On the same day in May, another seven residents with CO-related issues were admitted to the intensive care unit. During that period, nitrogen oxides, a main component of CO, had been detected in four residents. The EPA has found that oxygen concentrations drop much faster than the speed of CO diffusion and that the concentration of CO in the blood decreases rapidly with a set pressure requirement, usually starting at about a 20 percent to 25 percent level, putting the oxygen as low as 5 percent of the blood for just minutes, the Southern Morning Journal reported. Unfortunately, last month, a Tampa Bay nursing home was forced to close a week after nine residents were poisoned in an apparent carbon monoxide outbreak. The residents of the facility, which is a separate from the one in Ohio, were hit with CO-linked respiratory problems after the unplugged air conditioner, found by Tampa firefighters, was not replaced for months. An autopsy indicated the nine residents died of carbon monoxide poisoning. In a 2015 report, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Director David Altmaier ordered all of the state’s assisted living facilities to stop shipping air conditioners. He advised against reusing the units.

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