Health officials in New York will allow hospitals to split ventilators between two patients as they try to deal with the influx of patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that while the technique is "not ideal," it is "workable" and necessary due to the current shortage of ventilators.
Cuomo warned that as the virus continues to spread, hospitals could need up to 30,000 machines in the coming weeks. New York only has between five and six thousand ventilators. They have ordered an additional seven thousand and received four hundred from the federal government's stockpile. That could give them enough machines if they are each used to treat two patients.
Cuomo explained that the reason they need so many ventilators is that patients with COVID-19 may need to use the machines for up to three weeks, while patients with other ailments are usually on them for three or four days.
"Why such a demand? It is a respiratory illness for a large number of people. So they all need ventilators," Cuomo said. "Non-COVID patients are normally on ventilators for three to four days. COVID patients are on ventilators for 11 to 21 days. You don't have the same turnaround."
Health experts cautioned against the practice of splitting ventilators. Several medical groups issued a joint statement warning that the method is not safe using the currently available equipment.
"Attempting to ventilate multiple patients with COVID‐19, given the issues described here, could lead to poor outcomes and high mortality rates for all patients cohorted," they said in the statement.
Instead, they said doctors and nurses must make difficult decisions and give available ventilators to patients who are most likely to survive.
"In accordance with the exceedingly difficult, but not uncommon, triage decisions often made in medical crises, it is better to purpose the ventilator to the patient most likely to benefit than fail to prevent, or even cause, the demise of multiple patients," they wrote.
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