FORT PAYNE, Ala. – If you know anyone who is homebound or receives home health care, you know how critical access to home medical supplies can be. You might even think homebound patients are exempt from the woes of overwhelmed hospitals nationwide.
Based in Fort Payne, Complete Care, Inc. provides home medical equipment for counties in northeast Alabama. One of their specialties is oxygen, which has led to a demand with rising COVID patients.
One of the company’s executives told News 19 that is just one of many problems the pandemic has created for them.
“I’ve been doing this business with this business for over 30 years and I have never seen anything like this,” said Leigh Ann Matthews with Complete Care.
Complete Care would typically serve older patients with long-term diseases but now the pandemic tasks them with COVID patients being sent home from hospitals.
“So, if you have COVID and pneumonia, your oxygen levels are low. You’re now being treated at home with services from equipment companies like ours,” Matthews explained.
And they’re trying to stay afloat.
“We’ve seen a drastic increase in the last month of referrals we would normally have gotten from hospitals upon discharge. We are now seeing those coming from ER and physicians offices because there are no beds to put these people in,” she said.
So more patients needing more equipment but much like everywhere else, they face supply chain issues, including shipping delays and backlogs.
“That always is a concern to us that we are going to have to say I don’t have the equipment that a person needs. Trying to order more oxygen tanks that people use for portables to go to the doctor,” Matthews said.
She also explained that trying to order more oxygen tanks that people use for portables to go to the doctor, they are telling Complete Care six months is an order.
Matthews said the price for medical equipment is inflated, “Prices have gone up, sometimes double… triple. Shipping costs have gone up and now they’ve gone to a surcharge.”
They’re paying more for products but the money they’re getting from insurance companies isn’t keeping up. So, with the heavier workload comes lower profits.
“Our reimbursement hasn’t changed in 10 years and nobody takes into effect the change in the market which has drastically changed in the past two and a half,” Matthews explained.
Matthews says it’s not just people needing oxygen or COVID patients who are affected. At this point, any patient could feel an impact.