Are Medical Gas Shortages on the Horizon?

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Recently, there have been some news articles citing shortages for nitrous oxide that may be making some of our dental and medical professionals a little nervous over foreseeable supply issues. We wanted to get ahead and address what this may mean for our clients and friends! The big reveal: Supply issues are not new news! Plus, it is our job to navigate these challenges so that you don’t need to!

We have been in business since 1974, and since our inception, we have braved and maneuvered through countless supply shortages that commonly affect Oxygen, Nitrous Oxide, Carbon Dioxide, and Helium. Shortages (of both products and labor), backorders, extended delivery times, and exponential increases to our cost of doing business seem to be a daily norm for all businesses and industries across the world. Helium is a product that has experienced shortages globally for decades and availability is regularly expanding and contracting based on very fragile global supply chains. Nitrous Oxide experienced a significant supply shortage starting in 2017, when a perfect storm of manufacturer challenges impacted the US and lasted several years. Then, during the pandemic, the exponential demand for Oxygen had long term affects on not just supply, but increased costs as well. Unfortunately, it was not just the supply of oxygen itself, but we continue to experience backorders of oxygen related products (such as cylinders, valves, regulators, flowmeters and masks) that have not recovered the pandemic’s demands. It is not uncommon for lead times of these products to be six – nine months out, with substantial increases in product costs and shipping.

As of today, June 8, 2022, our supply forecast from our suppliers and resources is as follows:

Oxygen No immediate supply interruptions or shortages.

We are not presently under, nor received, notice for supply shortages, interruptions or allocations. However, we are still under notice of numerous contingencies that require additional costs to receive the product (in liquid and packaged form) to our facilities. These costs have been as high as 65% increases over our contracted rates and we have been doing everything in our ability to mitigate the impact it has on our clients.

Nitrous Oxide – No immediate supply interruptions or shortages.

We are not presently under, nor have received, notices from our suppliers or manufacturers forewarning any supply shortages, interruptions, allocations or contingency fees. There are some concerns that supply could be interrupted in our market due to a primary component of nitrous oxide, ammonium nitrate, being impacted or interrupted due to Russia’s assault on Ukraine. However, we currently do not have any notices that it will be affecting any supply expectations at the present time. We will be sure to keep all of our clients and followers updated with any new information or supply challenges as they arise. Follow our Facebook page today to receive and stay up to date with new information!

Nitrogen – No immediate supply interruptions or shortages

We are not presently under, nor have we received, notice of supply shortages, interruptions or allocations of this product.

Carbon Dioxide – No immediate supply interruptions or shortages

This product has previously experienced some unreliability due to manufacturer production failures and limited manufacturers of the product. However, we have not experienced any supply interruptions or notices of the issues since 2018. While we do not have any notices of force majeure, allocations, or interruptions, we have and continue to experience intermittent contingency fees added to the cost of being able to receive products. The costs are absorbed by our company as much as possible and do result in intermittent contingencies when that burden is too great to bear. Our clients may see these charges more frequently in Colorado, which has experienced the greatest challenge to receive this product due to supplier issues.

Helium – Immediate supply interruption with minimal foreseeable relief

Analgesic Services, Inc. has been under a notice of helium supply and interruption since 2016 from our numerous supplier relationships. Until recently, even under notice, we had still been able to receive helium products and provide helium with relative reliability. The helium situation has become more dire with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and further compounded by a US helium plant closure due to a gas leak in January, and is still reported to be closed. To read more about issues and the long-term availability of helium, you can check out this article about it on Quartz.

What can I do to ensure my practice is not affected by a shortage of gases?  

1.  Always make sure your cylinders are closed at the valve when not in use.

A best practice to adopt for your facility is to train staff members to close cylinders at the valve at the end of business day and reopen valves when you reopen. It is a common occurrence that flowmeters can be left on, or even that your system could have a leak. Even small leaks can lead to big costs. Having an active awareness of your medical gas system and ensuring to close cylinders at their valves when not in use will significantly reduce the risk of a leak and ensure that no product is being lost.

  1.  Schedule a leak inspection at your facility.

Our drivers will perform a complimentary leak inspection upon delivery. However, this is conducted at the tank connection points (between the valve and the regulator) and can not capture the system as a whole. Having an annual inspection conducted at your facility will ensure that you are not losing product at any of the piping, outlet, manifold, flowmeter, regulator or use points that could have a big impact on your bottom line. Having your system inspected can also be an important opportunity to make sure that your system is operating at its maximum capacity for efficiency and safety.

  1.  Consider helium alternatives:
    1. Regulator for helium mixtures – Did you know that there are products that will allow you to mix helium with air to dilute the helium, which is used for filling balloons? These small investments can lead to big savings with the ever-rising costs of helium. You can also reduce your practice’s consumption of a scarce commodity. For more information on this device, email for a quote!
    2. Use another product in lieu of helium – We offer balloon alternatives, including compressed air with balloon sticks so that your practice can still offer balloons for your pediatric patients, but without the significant cost or reliability headaches. By making this small, inexpensive change, your office will see an 85% reduction in costs as that is the difference in price between a compressed air cylinder and cylinder of helium!
    3. Forego balloon helium altogether – We don’t like turning down business, but helium is an important commodity. While we frequently associate helium with balloons, it actually has many far more important and valuable applications such as cooling MRI and scientific machines, manufacturing, and more.
  1.  Stick with an Independent Gas Supplier over a Major Competitor –

You caught us. We’re absolutely bias in this opinion, but experience has shown this to be true. As supply availability gets tight, major suppliers will allocate resources to their biggest accounts. As a small office, you may not receive the same prioritization of product as you would with a smaller independent. While us, as a smaller independent supplier, we are typically big enough to make the cut for allocations and, and our clientele pool is small enough to be able to cater to you!

  1.  Don’t Sign a Sole Supplier Agreement –

Analgesic Services, Inc. has long stood on the philosophy that we don’t require contracts. First, we believe that we earn your business with each and every interaction. While the industry standard is to have contracts with medical professionals that require them to purchase gases from one organization. Second, we would never ask you to do something that we that we wouldn’t do ourselves! Amend your agreements so that you’re able to purchase from more than one source. It’s a practice we adopted many decades ago that has helped us stay resilient in our supply and product reliability. If you’re interested in learning more about how to do this, or interested in starting a relationship, contact us today!

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