Ventilator Shortage in US Hospitals
The American healthcare system is currently under immense strain from the Coronavirus Pandemic. Hospitals across the country – particularly in the epicenter region of the tri-state area – are citing a dire shortage of hospital beds, basic medical supplies, and hospital-grade ventilators to address the needs of their patients. Due to the ventilator shortage and limitation of space, medical professionals are now being forced to make the difficult decision of prioritizing the lives and care of certain individuals over others.
For many people, the United States’ lack of material preparedness for this pandemic was shocking. There has been an array of investigative reporting pieces in the past weeks trying to explain the events and missteps which took place over the past decades which created our current ventilator shortage and lack of essential medical supplies.
Nurses in the New York area were infamously photographed wearing garbage bags over their bodies last week due to a lack of personal protective gear in our hospitals. In late March, The New York Times reported a story on a failed government initiative, begun over 13 years ago, to stockpile 70,000 additional ventilators which would have left the United States in a much better position to fight this virus had that initiative not been derailed by competing corporate interests in the medical device industry.
According to The Times, in 2007, the Department of Health identified a dire shortage of ventilators in our nation’s emergency stockpile which would leave us dangerously exposed if an influenza-like virus were to spread. Based on this analysis, the DOH set out to contract and buy 70,000 additional units. However, after years of research and development, the company which was contracted to supply these units was bought out by one of their larger competitors and the government ventilator project was abandoned. What resulted is the current situation where the United States, as predicted 13 years ago, is severely ill-equipped to combat this current virus.
FDA Ventilator Supply Mitigation Strategy
While hospitals and national stockpiles have lacked the requisite resources to address this crisis, there are many innovative solutions that individuals and healthcare organizations alike are taking to address the lack of supplies. On March 22, the FDA took action to address the ventilator shortage in hospitals across the country and authorized the use of personal CPAP machines in less severe cases of COVID-19 which do not require the full capacity of expensive hospital-grade ventilators.
CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) units are personal bedside breathing apparatuses typically used to help individuals with sleep apnea breathe through the night. CPAP units force air into your lungs through a face mask if breathing has temporarily stopped during sleep. The CPAP process differs slightly from a ventilator in that ventilators push air in and out of the lungs through breathing tubes while CPAPs only push air into the lungs, not out of them.
With a shortage of ventilator machines available in hospitals, the use of CPAP devices could be an essential development to address the needs of patients with COVID-19 and reduce the strain on the healthcare system. CPAP units could be used in hospitals facing a ventilator shortage, or at home, for people who are experiencing minor respiratory problems and do not qualify to be tested and admitted to hospitals.
A Debate Over Safety
Are CPAP’s Totally Safe?
Despite the FDA’s approval of CPAPs being used for minor Coronavirus cases to mitigate the ventilator shortage, there is some discrepancy in the healthcare profession as to whether or not CPAP use is a smart option for Coronavirus patients. While the FDA authorized their use in late March for minor cases of COVID-19, the American Society of Anesthesiologists has warned that using CPAP machines for COVID-19 patients may cause a greater risk of transmission through the air.
Based on this concern, on March 27, National Public Radio (NPR) published a report warning against the use of CPAPs for Coronavirus cases, citing a worry that continuous positive airway machines may cause the virus to be aerosolized and transmitted through the air. Unlike ventilators, CPAP units are open-loop systems, meaning that air is pushed into the lungs of the patient and then released into the outside air when they exhale. In traditional ventilator machines, the air is pushed into the patient’s lungs and then pushed out, keeping the air contained within the apparatus where it can be filtered before being released into the ambient surroundings.
Can COVID-19 be Transmitted Through the Air?
This debate continues, particularly as we remain unsure how widely Coronavirus can be transmitted through the air. Medical consensus has maintained that COVID-19 is principally transmitted through physical droplets, too heavy to be transmitted through the air. However, the CDC released a report from Wuhan, China finding that in intensive care units at the former epicenter of the virus, COVID-19 could be transmitted through the air up to 4 meters.
In the most severe cases of Coronavirus and in areas with a high concentration of infected patients, the virus was found up to 4 meters away from the patients’ locations. This number was significantly lower in the general ward where less severe cases were treated, typically less than 1 m radius. The report did not examine minor cases outside of the hospital. Meaning that in the most severe instances, COVID-19 can travel through the air, albeit relatively short distances.
According to NPR, if a CPAP machine was used in such severe scenarios, it is possible that the air forced into the lungs, when exhaled, could travel through the ambient surroundings, possibly infecting those in its path within a 4 m radius. Therefore, for serious cases of COVID-19, it is not advised that patients use a CPAP machine in their home without taking the necessary precautions.
Cautious Use: CPAP Users with COVID-19 Must Take Precaution
First of all, the CPAP machine is not equipped to provide the same caliber of breathing assistance as can a traditional ventilator. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, you must seek immediate medical attention. Secondly, it is possible that open-looped CPAP machines transmit the virus through the air when used on infected individuals. If using a CPAP machine with Coronavirus symptoms, it is important that you remain in isolation and that those around you take protective measures.
Based on evidence from the CDC and FDA, it remains the case that CPAP machines could help patients of the Coronavirus breathe and get oxygen into the lungs should they experience mild respiratory illness. When the lungs and respiratory system are impaired, patients may experience strain or difficulty breathing and a restricted amount of oxygen is obtained.
In such cases, CPAP machines could be of great benefit to allow the patient to get more oxygen into their lungs and breath with comfort so long as they are in isolation and the people caring for them have adequate personal protective equipment. However, severe cases of COVID-19 with serious respiratory problems must seek professional medical help immediately.
CPAP Users Benefit from Security and Convenience of Portable Battery Packs
Whether for COVID-19 or Sleep Apnea, CPAP users have relied on ChargeTech mobile battery packs to power their devices for several years. Despite the debates that persist pertaining to the efficacy of treating Coronavirus with open-looped CPAP machines, maintaining a reliable and convenient source of power is an essential component of any personal breathing apparatus.
When patients rely on assistance to breathe, whether in a hospital or in a home, power must be readily accessible and close at hand. The ChargeTech 40K AC Battery Pack, 54K Dual AC Battery Pack, and 125K Power Station are compatible with all CPAP devices and allow the user to access power for their device through the night anywhere in their house or on the road. In a time of emergency, it is essential that patients have a reliable source of power that they can carry with their portable breathing apparatus and access wherever they are in need.
For hospital and professional use, the 54K Dual AC Battery Pack, and 125K Power Station are optimal. These devices provide extremely long-lasting charge yet are still compact and portable. Remote hospitals with restricted access to electrical outlets could benefit greatly from having reliable and portable power sources such as our industry-leading 125K unit to operate personal medical devices such as CPAP, BiPAP, or Ventilator units.
In traditional hospitals, ChargeTech portable power units would provide the convenience, mobility, and accessibility necessary to treat patients with respiratory illnesses. Portable power units can be housed with respiratory medical devices so that in a time of need the entire system can immediately be brought to the patient and activated without any delay in accessing a power source.
For personal and in-home use, ChargeTech portable power devices have been tested and proven as an essential companion to any personal medical device. ChargeTech customers who use CPAP machines have especially relied on our products while traveling, as they can rest assured that they will be able to access reliable power by their bedside while on the road.
ChargeTech portable power devices are an essential companion to any CPAP or other personal breathing apparatus. Ensure that you always have access to a reliable and long-lasting source of power. Visit our website to view our full collection of portable power units.
ChargeTech COVID-19 Relief Initiative
Beyond creating critical power solutions to mitigate the ventilator shortage caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic, ChargeTech will be providing direct relief to the COVID-19 response effort. In the month of April, 25% of all profits will be donated directly to the COVID-19 Response Fund at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP). Read our CEO’s letter and thoughts about this initiative here.
Through the work of the CDP, ChargeTech will be providing direct relief and support to the most vulnerable communities affected by COVID-19 and to those who are bravely fighting to contain its spread.
Please help us contribute to this effort!
For more information on the FDA Ventilator Shortage Mitigation Strategy, click here.