Now the U.S Has Lots of Ventilators, but Too Few Specialists to Operate Then
In this article published in The New York Times on November 22, 2020, the Author, Andrew Jacobs, tells a story of a stock pile of inadequately built ventilators and a lack of health care providers trained to use them.
According to Andrew, during the first wave of COVID-19 in the spring, hospitals did not have enough ventilators, or machines that can mechanically breath for patients. Hospitals were essentially using war time triage protocols to decide who received a ventilator due to the short supply. A number of manufacturing companies were able to shift gears away from making their normal car parts and focused on making breathing machines instead. While these companies were able to greatly increase their output, some experts fear that the machines made under these circumstances may not hold up to the standards needed to fight COVID-19. There is worry they may require too much maintenance long term and will not be ideal for stockpiling.
While the healthcare community is now comfortable with the number of machines available, there is a lack of professionals trained in the use of these advanced airway interventions, especially in a disease like COVID-19 that is constantly evolving. In especially hard hit rural areas, there is a huge lack of access to intensive care doctors, pulmonologists and respiratory therapists, who are the medical professionals that have the most experience in operating these complicated machines. Because it has been hard to predict the number of patients that will become critically ill, there is worry that drumming up the staff to operate the machines will not happen as quickly as the production of the machines.
Additionally, the way COVID-19 is being treated is constantly changing. Doctors now seem to be holding back from intubating and putting patients on a ventilator, and instead are using more positive pressure and positioning to help improve patient outcomes. These positive pressure machines still require specialized providers to utilize them. Some doctors are attributing better patient outcomes to an increasing in the general public recognizing the signs and symptoms of the virus and seeking help before they are critically ill.
The fact that this article says that there are 200,000 new cases a day is an astounding number. Hospitals and their staff are getting overwhelmed and there is no way to project how many more cases will come about. This goes to show that it is more important now than ever to wear a mask, wash our hands, and socially distance.
Link to article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/22/health/Covid-ventilators-stockpile.html