WEDNESDAY, March 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- There may not be enough ventilators in the United States to cope with the number of novel coronavirus patients who will require them due to pneumonia and other serious respiratory problems, experts say.
About 960,000 COVID-19 patients may need to be put on ventilators at some point, but the United States has only about 200,000 machines, according to the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the Associated Press reported. The organization also said that about half of the ventilators are older models that may not be optimal for the most severely ill patients and added that many ventilators are already in use by other patients with serious health conditions not associated with COVID-19. Ventilator manufacturers have boosted production, but it is not clear if that will meet the demand in the United States and other countries.
"The real issue is how to rapidly increase ventilator production when your need exceeds the supply. For that, I don't have a very good answer," Lewis Kaplan, M.D., president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine, told the AP. "If everyone in the country wants to order some, that will get rapidly depleted in a heartbeat."
Another problem is the lack of health care workers to operate ventilators, according to the critical care society. It said the United States has only enough respiratory therapists, specialist nurses, and doctors with the proper training for about 135,000 patients to be put on ventilators at any one time, the AP reported.