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US Veterans Health Administration decision to mandate oxygen firebreaks ‘a victory for patient safety’

BPR Medical has welcomed the United States Veterans Health Administration (VA) decision to mandate the use of thermal fuses – also known as firebreaks – in all its home oxygen patient installations.

The VA published a Patient Safety Alert on May 8, requiring thermal fuses, which can prevent patient deaths and limit injuries in the event of an oxygen fire – to be installed on every stationary and portable oxygen system used by its 85,000 home oxygen patients. The change is being phased in over the next six months, with home oxygen installers’ contracts being amended to reflect the new requirement.

As a result of the VA’s Patient Safety Alert, all the 21 regional Veterans Integrated Service Network organisations (VISNs), which oversee healthcare for veterans, will also be required to formally report fires involving home oxygen.

There are no accurate figures for the number of fires involving home oxygen in the United States, however a report in 2017 by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recorded a likely annual death rate of 70 people (based on figures between 2011 and 2015), equivalent to one in 20 home fire deaths. The NFPA also states that there is an average of 1,190 burns each year due to home oxygen fires, although it describes these statistics as ‘likely underestimates’.*

Richard Radford, Managing Director, BPR Medical, said, “Fires caused by patients smoking or being exposed to other dangers such as birthday candles, gas ovens and electrical devices while using home oxygen are an almost daily event. These fires don’t just result in injuries or death for the patient but can also pose a serious risk to family and neighbours in the event of a whole house fire.

“The decision by the VA to mandate thermal fuses in all its patients’ oxygen installations is a victory for patient safety and a major step forward in ensuring that every home oxygen patient – no matter where they are in the world – benefits from the same level of protection.”

BPR Medical developed its Firesafe™ cannula valve in 2004 as a means of arresting the spread of fire in home oxygen systems. It is an inexpensive device which is placed in the oxygen tubing or cannula and lasts for up to four years. A built-in thermal valve stops the flow of oxygen spreading down the oxygen tubing in the event of fire.

The VA’s Patient Safety Alert can be found here.

For more information on firebreaks please click here.

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