The ventilator shortage, explained
4:33

The ventilator shortage, explained

Wellness
The corona virus attacks your lungs, meaning that patients with severe cases often need help breathing to make it through. That's what makes ventilators so important right now. The ventilator will make the difference between life and death literally for these people. A ventilator is a machine that delivers fresh air to somebody who is unable to breathe sufficiently on their own. Ventilators usually consist of a pump machine and a tube that goes down the nose or mouth and into the windpipe. The machine pumps life giving oxygenated air into the lungs while removing carbon dioxide for people with severe cases of coronavirus. These ventilators could keep them alive long enough for their body to fight off the virus. The problem is that there just aren't enough of them. Back in 2018, an analysis from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security estimated that there were about 160,000 ventilators in the United States. Under normal circumstances, that's usually enough to serve everybody that needs one. But in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, it's a severe shortage. The American Hospital Association has estimated nearly 1 million Americans could require ventilation due to coronavirus and some of those patients may need to stay on their ventilators for up to two weeks. Whether that's 1 million people all at once or 1 million people over the course of several weeks or months will depend on how successful our social distancing efforts are in slowing the spread of this virus and flattening the curve. As far as where those extra ventilators are gonna come from, there's no easy answer. Ventilators typically cost tens of thousands of dollars each, making it hard for hospitals, especially ones serving lower income communities, to keep a bunch lying around just in case. And now that there's a global pandemic going on, the whole world is suddenly trying to buy these ventilators all at once. Every state is trying to get them other countries are trying to get them. You cannot buy them you cannot find them. The companies that make these ventilators have reportedly ramped up production as much as possible. And several non medical companies have also offered to help including General Motors Ford and Tesla in the US. The FDA has relaxed some guidelines to make it easier for these companies to get into the ventilator business. But there remains a growing concern that it may take months for them to actually start producing ventilators. It does us no good if they start to create a ventilator in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks. We're looking at an apex of 14 days. If we don't have the ventilators in 14 days, it does us no good. While this is happening, factories in China have been working around the clock since January and continue to produce ventilators for the global market, despite having met their own country's need for ventilators weeks ago. 3D printers are also being used to produce ventilator parts. And a group in Ireland is developing an open sourced design for a ventilator made with a combination of 3D printed and off the shelf parts. Though these DIY ventilators are envisioned to be used in a worse case scenario, and likely won't have the precise controls medical professionals usually rely on. Ventilators require these precise controls because the wrong settings can cost someone their life. If there's too much pressure pushing air in, it can damage the lungs. And if there's too much oxygen, it can lead to a condition called oxygen toxicity. That's right. Too much oxygen is actually poisonous. That's why these machines need to be precisely made and controlled so they don't end up causing further damage. Public health experts have said there's about 12,000 ventilators in the National Stockpile, which is far from enough to fulfill the need, meaning some State governments are being forced to take unusual steps. We're going so far as to trying our experimental procedure where we split the ventilator we use one ventilator For two patients, picture two hospital beds, one ventilator between the two of them, but with two sets of tubes, two sets of pipes going to the two patients. For an idea of what America could experience if we fail to get enough ventilators. Consider what has happened in Italy, where doctors and nurses on the front lines have had to make gut-wrenching choices about who gets access to a ventilator and who gets left to die. And if you're one of the ones who thinks it can't happen here, consider the fact that the number of reported cases in the US has already surpassed both Italy and Iran at the same point in their outbreak. I wish I had a happy ending for this video [MUSIC] For now, the best thing we can do is avoid each other as much as possible and wash our hands often in an attempt to flatten the curve and give our overwhelmed healthcare system the best chance possible at fighting back this virus.

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