Over the last few weeks of the Coronavirus pandemic, ventilators have become a vital resource for every hospital as they prepare for an influx of patients. With nearly 600,000 cases worldwide (worldometers), there have only been a few areas that have faced a shortage of ventilators so far. Since the virus is so contagious and spreads quickly, the worst case scenarios project up to 200 million Americans contracting COVID-19 at some point (Fink, 2020). If this were to occur, the number of ventilators currently in U.S. hospitals would be insufficient. The result could be hundreds of thousands of Americans losing their lives and doctors being forced to choose who gets a ventilator based on factors such as age and health. In order to prevent the worst case scenario, manufacturers and producers are working to make as many ventilators as possible while fighting against the clock.

Ventilators will play a vital role in the fight against Coronavirus by helping patients, who are considered critical, to breathe easier. For those who are suffering from symptoms like pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome, it can be difficult to get enough oxygen into their lungs. Ventilators push oxygen into the lungs and, as a result, help the body release carbon dioxide that would otherwise be harmful (idsMED, 2019). Because they can essentially breathe for a patient who is unable to, respirators may become one of the medical field’s best tools in its continued fight against Coronavirus. 

The main problem facing current health systems is the high likelihood that they will be overwhelmed by patients in critical conditions who need respirators in order to live. As of March 24th, 2020, there are still enough ventilators for everyone who currently needs them in the United States. The fear amongst the medical community is that eventually the need will greatly outnumber the supply. Sara Morrison, a Vox reporter, says “there are about 170,000 ventilators in the U.S. while the American Hospital Association estimates 960,000 people will need them over the course of the pandemic, which is why it’s best to do whatever we can to slow the spread of the virus so that not all patients all need ventilators at the same time” (Morrison, 2020). The reality is that the amount of projected cases requiring ventilators far outnumbers the actual number of devices in the United States currently. 

With a shortage of respirators likely in the United States, the procurement of such devices will become more difficult as the pandemic continues and worsens. GreenLight Medical may be able to aid hospitals and health systems during these arduous times by providing an easy-to-use platform where supply chain leaders and hospital admins can make purchasing decisions. As Morrison said, reducing the spread is one way to help, but another would be to produce more ventilators. The government eased regulations so that it will be easier for manufacturers to mass produce respirators (Muller, 2020).

Italy’s experience is an example of what could happen in the United States if the problem is not addressed while there is still time. The Italian healthcare system is overwhelmed by the current circumstances where doctors are being forced to make difficult decisions that are essentially equivalent to choosing who gets to live (Mounk, 2020). These are devastating and difficult moral decisions to make. 

While it is scary to think about the many Americans who may be left without proper care because of ventilator shortages, hospital administrators and leaders need to be prepared for that distinct possibility. The medical community will be forced to make many challenging, moral decisions if the pandemic worsens and a shortage of ventilators occurs. The hope is that with proper action, many of the deaths and difficult choices can be reduced or completely avoided. 

 

If you would like to learn more about GreenLight Medical and how we can help during these challenging times, please click here.

 

References

Coronavirus Cases: (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Fink, S. (2020, March 13). The Worst-Case Estimate for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/us/coronavirus-deaths-estimate.html

How Does A Ventilator Work? (2019, January 23). Retrieved from https://www.idsmed.com/hk-en/news/how-does-a-ventilator-work_398.html

Morrison, S. (2020, March 20). Why lifesaving ventilators will be in short supply for the foreseeable future. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/3/20/21186749/ventilators-coronavirus-covid-19-elon-musk

Mounk, Y. (2020, March 18). The Extraordinary Decisions Facing Italian Doctors. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/who-gets-hospital-bed/607807/

Muller, J. (2020, March 23). FDA eases rules for ventilator production, but hurdles remain. Retrieved from https://www.axios.com/fda-ventilator-production-859ef8d4-e251-49b0-b56e-845770e0adca.html