But as a newer and larger wave of the novel coronavirus hits the U.S., the equipment may not be enough, The New York Times reported yesterday.
The problem, according to the Times, is that there aren’t enough respiratory therapists, pulmonologists and critical care doctors with the training to operate the ventilators and provide people struggling to breathe with the round-the-clock care they need. In the U.S., the 37,400 critical care doctors — called intensivists — are only stationed at only about half of U.S. hospitals; many rural hospitals don’t have any intensivists.
“We can’t manufacture doctors and nurses in the same way we can manufacture ventilators,” said Dr. Eric Toner, an ER doctor and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“And you can’t teach someone overnight the right settings and buttons to push on a ventilator for patients who have a disease they’ve never seen before. The most realistic thing we can do in the short run is to reduce the impact on hospitals, and that means wearing masks and avoiding crowded spaces so we can flatten the curve of new infections,” Toner told the Times.
The news comes only months after HHS said the national ventilator stockpile was full, with more than 120,000 ventilators available for deployment at the time of the report in September. Companies including Philips, Medtronic, and General Motors, Ventec Life Systems, Hamilton Medical and Vyaire Medical stepped up to eliminate ventilator shortages. Medtronic even shared the design specifications of its Puritan Bennett 560 (PB 560) ventilator.