Brooklyn Center for Rehabilitation and Residential Healthcare installed a new bulk medical oxygen system in just a few weeks during the Spring 2020 COVID-19 surge.

In the midst of uncertainty around COVID-19, Virtair and Messer went above and beyond to execute a safe and timely bulk medical oxygen installation at Brooklyn Center for Rehabilitation and Residential Healthcare. 

The challenge

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City, the Brooklyn Center for Rehabilitation and Residential Healthcare anticipated an increase in capacity as it prepared to handle expected overflow from neighboring hospitals. The recently completed nursing home needed a bulk medical oxygen system to supply 200 ventilator beds before it could accept patients.

Given that no one could predict how fast the caseload might rise during the pandemic, an exceedingly tight deadline was set for installing the system. The nursing home brought in a medical gas distributor, Virtair (New Hyde Park, NY), to deliver and construct a permanent bulk medical oxygen system.

Find out how to develop a bulk medical oxygen strategy in our guide.

Bulk oxygen system planning

In mid-March 2020 Virtair approached Messer, the world’s largest privately held industrial gas business and Virtair’s partner on bulk systems, to plan and install the system.

“We were staring in the face of hundreds maybe even thousands of patients that needed a tremendous amount of oxygen to breathe, and they needed it very quickly – in days as opposed to weeks or months,” says Virtair owner Will Wasserman.

Amid the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, Virtair and Messer rose to the occasion and compressed a normal timeline of several months into just over one month. Wasserman says the key to speeding up the project was straightforward and parallel approvals. Actions such as permitting that would normally happen over weeks and months took just hours.

“Bulk planning normally takes a very long time, six months just to get it going,” says Wasserman, who served as liaison with all parties. “I’ve never seen approvals that quickly – ever. The whole project was approved within a week. Messer, the city building and fire departments, the governor’s office, etc. – everyone just really got it done.”

Virtair, Messer, and Brooklyn Rehab drafted a project agreement at the end of March. Serving as the liaison with Messer and Brooklyn Rehab, Virtair shepherded negotiations and the three companies executed the agreement on April 1, 2020.

Accounting for the uncertainty of peak flows and necessary capacity, Messer’s Hospital Services group and Virtair came up with a suitable design.

Messer’s Hospital Services team helped secure the necessary permits from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). The team swiftly coordinated drawings, freight transportation for the equipment, cranes, and rigging for the installation according to tight deadlines. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Rehab had the bulk medical oxygen station foundation installed. During the height of the pandemic, the project team took virus prevention safety measures and rose to the challenge.

“Given the anticipated need, we put in a system much larger than we would normally need,” says Wasserman.

Bulk oxygen system features

The system features a 3000-gallon main oxygen tank and a 1500-gallon reserve oxygen tank, more than double the normal backup capacity for a main tank that size.

Virtair and Messer also specified and installed an upsized vaporizer. The three-circuit “hospital vaporizer” has two circuits for the main tank. The circuits switch intermittently to help maintain vaporizer performance and prevent freezing and icing. 

The bulk medical oxygen system was installed and commissioned on April 21, 2020, three weeks from the initial agreement. “The project moved very smoothly and efficiently,” says Wasserman. “Messer performed as one cohesive team and communicated very well with us.”

Using Messer for bulk oxygen systems

Wasserman appreciated the safe and timely delivery of the installation, and he says Brooklyn Rehab was delighted. The bulk system operated as designed and is now in use for day-to-day operations.

“It [installing a new bulk medical oxygen system] would’ve taken months to a year in a normal situation,” Wasserman concludes. “They were provided the opportunity to help a lot of people and they were thrilled about it. It was a huge win all around.”