What ventilator shortage means in US fight against the coronavirus


Across the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of ventilators and that could mean the difference between life and death for many patients with COVID-19.

Medical device makers, including Philips and Medtronic, have agreed to ramp up supplies as quickly as possible. But because patients diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19 often require breathing support, there’s widespread concern that these devices won’t be developed and shipped quickly enough. 

Ventilators deliver air to the lungs through a pump that is placed in the windpipe. With supplies running low, anesthesia departments, veterinarians and even zoos are offering ventilators to hospitals. But until more of these machines can be produced, some health experts fear that doctors will be forced to ration care, meaning deciding who may live or die. 

“We know from studies out of China, for example, that about 17 percent or so coronavirus patients actually require a ventilator,” said Dr. Chethan Sathya, a pediatric surgeon at Northwell Health. “So we’re not talking about, you know, a large capacity. But when you look at the number of people that are going to be infected by coronavirus, that translates to many, many people. That’s why we’re worried about this.”

Watch the video to learn more. 



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