Friday, March 20, 2020
Covid-19: So Who Will Get The Ventilators?
There are few worse ways to die than with a bad case of pneumonia, gasping for every small breath of air, a burning pain in your chest, your panicked eyes bulging out of your head.
But it's the way most Covid-19 patients die, and why ventilators that can pump oxygen into their damaged lungs are so important.
Unfortunately however, there may not be enough breathing machines for everyone.
Nobody seems to have prepared for a monster like this one...
Even as the virus continues to spread.
Which has Neil MacDonald wondering who will get what he calls those "golden" machines? And drawing some bleak conclusions.
I am not at all certain that, if I or any of my aged relatives come down with the disease in the uncertain and increasingly terrifying weeks to come, there will be ventilators for us. And as one American epidemiologist put it recently, the alternative to ventilation for someone with extreme respiratory symptoms is death. As a despairing Italian physician put it on social media from the horrors of his triage centre in Bergamo: “Every ventilator becomes like gold.”
We are told Canada has about 5,000 ventilators. That’s one ventilator for every 45 of those dying patients. Unless Canada somehow acquires a lot more of the machines, and the entire world is now chasing them, there will be rationing. That is what has been happening in Italy. Doctors there have been given the ghastly job of deciding who receives ventilation, and who is sent home to meet their fate.
But while MacDonald is right about what is happening in Italy, where exhausted doctors are indeed having to make some devastating choices...
This is nonsense.
So the big question – the crucial, life-or-death question as this virus tears through the population – will very quickly be this: who gets the ventilators?
The public deserves to know precisely how lifesaving care will be allocated. The public has a right to transparent fairness. My guess: fairness and objective allocation of resources will slam into the wall of privilege.
Power and influence will have nothing to do with who gets or who doesn't get a ventilator. The medical world is not as corrupt as our Con media.
If our doctors have to make the same choices as their colleagues in Italy, they will be based strictly on medical reasons. Which as Dr. Michael Kenyon, the head of ICU at the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital says, won't be easy but is the right moral choice.
“What am I going to do with 14 ventilators?” Dr. Kenyon said in an interview. “I can tell you what I’m going to do: I’m going to do what they’re doing in Italy and I’m going to take 70-year-olds off the ventilator, and then 60-year-olds off the ventilator and eventually 50-year-olds off the ventilator, and I’m going to give them to 30-year olds with three kids.”
All is not lost, Canada is better prepared than most countries, and the Canadian government is now mobilizing industry to try to increase the supply of ventilators and other medical equipment.
But that will take time, and it will only work if we can flatten the curve with extreme social distancing, give our hospitals a chance, and protect the lives of our healthcare workers....
So they can be there for you, if or when you need them.
You know, this pandemic is almost certainly to get a lot worse before it gets better. And a lot of people who are alive today will soon be dead.
But we can keep those numbers down if we do our part.
And keep reminding everybody that we're all in this together...