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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A local dialysis facility and provider for rural and critical access hospitals says it’s dealing with an unprecedented shortage of supplies from its distributor because of the recent surge in COVID-19.

“It’s scary. I’m afraid. I am afraid,” said Leslie Whiles, co-owner of New Direction Home & Acute Dialysis. “What it will come down to is, ‘Why can’t you help me?’”

All day Monday, Whiles said she’s had the phone glued to her ear, trying to scrounge together dialysis supplies.

dialysis supplies
Dialysis supplies

Her company services about 16 different rural and critical access hospitals around the state. They’re also able to give dialysis treatments to patients when the hospitals don’t have room.

“And that’s not to mention some of the rural hospitals that might call us and say, ‘Hey, we have a patient that we can’t move or we can’t find a bed for. Can you come down here and take care of them?’ And that’s what we do,” she said.

New Direction said it gets its products from a nationwide company called Fresenius. However, over the past couple of months, Whiles said the gaps between shipments have grown wider.

Lately, New Direction has been sending team members down to a distribution center in Texas, just to bring supplies back to Oklahoma.

“Everybody is taking it one day at a time. Hoping they get shipments, hoping they get supplies. It’s getting pretty desperate,” Whiles said.

To get by, New Direction staff has been re-arranging inventory in hospitals, but it’s still not enough.

“We are looking at our hospitals that have a low volume of treatments.. We’re taking those supplies to our high volume hospitals that we work at so we can make sure that they’re covered. Then, we start scrounging again,” said Whiles. “I called the Oklahoma Emergency Management this morning and they’re going to try and help us or show us how we can procure some supplies.”

“I have not seen this before,” said Dr. Joseph Ghata, a Nephrologist that works with New Direction.

Dr. Ghata said usually, the hospital would be a safe haven for dialysis patients during this type of situation.

“But as we all know, the pandemic and the health crisis and the nursing staff shortages may impact their ability to get dialysis in a prompt matter,” said. Dr. Ghata. “If the hospitals are already stressed and stretched from their current population of patients specifically magnified by COVID. And there’s an additional stressor with patients that are not able to get outpatient dialysis that can cause a lot of problems for patients that come to the hospital as a safe refuge.”

In a statement to KFOR, Fresenius said the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is impacting the distribution.

“We recognize the critical need for these supplies for patients requiring dialysis treatment. Our delivery drivers and other employees have been impacted by the latest wave of COVID-19 which has resulted in regional delivery and supply challenges, especially in the Oklahoma area. This has occurred despite a high vaccination rate among our employees and strict safety procedures in place. We are committed to resolving this unprecedented situation and have gone to great lengths to deliver dialysis supplies, including using other overnight shipping providers and even the National Guard. Our company will continue to work tirelessly to resolve these issues in order to maintain high quality patient care,” said Brad Puffer, a spokesperson for Fresenius Medical Care North America.

Meanwhile, Whiles and her team said they’ll keep searching.

“We’ve made a commitment to our patients and I’m afraid we’re not going to be able to keep it,” Whiles said.

News 4 reached out to the major hospital systems in the metro, including Mercy, St. Anthony’s, and the OKC VA Health Care System. They all say they’re fine on their dialysis supply inventory.