As COVID-19 spreads across the world, one of the most pressing concerns from the medical community is a shortage of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE). While both of these are vital to fighting COVID-19 and preventing deaths, there are other vital supplies being depleted. These resources include thermometers, oxygen tanks, ventilator therapists, and sedatives. All of these resources play a role in slowing down the spread of COVID-19, but a complete shortage of them could create substantial issues for the medical community.
Thermometers are one of the more common items that are sold out in many stores (Anderson, 2020). A temperature is one of the symptoms of the infection, and people have been purchasing thermometers at a much higher rate than normal. While easily being able to check one’s temperature is great, a stock shortage could prevent those who are actually sick from having access to the products. This should become less problematic once widespread testing is available around the United States.
The oxygen shortage represents a much larger issue as many deaths could result from it. With COVID-19 being a respiratory illness that makes breathing more difficult, many hospitals have been using oxygen for treatment. Medical professionals are becoming worried that they will soon face a shortage of oxygen with one hospital in New York already claiming to be running low (Anderson, 2020). These concerns are important as rampant oxygen shortages would affect more than just COVID-19 patients. There are many other individuals who require supplemental oxygen to live. A shortage here could mean that many people who never contract the disease are affected in some capacity.
The two other major shortages that hospitals may be facing, outside of ventilators or PPE, are the drugs and professionals required to operate respirators. It takes an individual with specific training and skills to operate most ventilators. Without them, producing more ventilators will do nothing to help the patients that need them. Many health officials now fear that a shortage of these professionals could hurt the number of patients they are able to treat at their hospitals (Anderson, 2020). This could result in many deaths even if the number of ventilators being produced increases greatly.
Even if there are enough trained workers to operate the ventilators, another issue is that patients on these devices require sedatives. Lois Parshely, a Vox reporter, described the situation: “But to save a COVID-19 patient’s life with a ventilator, you also need an ample supply of medications, both to be able to use the machine and to prevent agonizing pain” (Parshley, 2020). Essentially, these sedatives are every bit as important as the actual ventilators because without them, it would be nearly impossible to use the machine on an individual. This means that the initial shortage of ventilators cannot be solved by simply producing more. Rather, manufacturers and health systems need to ensure that they are sourcing everything required to run a ventilator and not just the machine itself.
While the shortage of PPE and ventilators within the United States is obviously a problem, there are additional supplies that are necessary to fighting COVID-19. Medical professionals need plenty of other devices and drugs that will be experiencing shortages as a result of the pandemic. While these may not seem as immediately important to stopping the spread, some items must work in tandem to treat patients.
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Anderson, M. (2020, April 1). New coronavirus shortages: Thermometers, oxygen, ventilator therapists. Shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic are going beyond personal protective equipment and ventilators, affecting things such as personal care thermometers and medical professionals trained to care for ventilated patients. Retrieved from https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/supply-chain/new-coronavirus-shortages-thermometers-for-home-use-ventilator-therapists.html
Parshley, L. (2020, April 6). You can’t use ventilators without sedatives. Now the US is running out of those, too. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2020/4/6/21209589/coronavirus-medicine-ventilators-drug-shortage-sedatives-COVID-19