Colorado hospital system looking at creative options to fill potential ventilator need

Posted at 7:30 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 21:46:31-04

LOUISVILLE, Colo.-- We've heard everyone from the governor to hospitals talk about the shortage of ventilators in hospitals due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, some hospitals are getting creative in making ventilators from items they already have on hand.

"Normally this is your patient circuit,” Clinical Engineering Director Liz Calhoun explained.

It is normally a ventilator used for anesthesia in the operating room, but they are not an option in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak so they can be used for coronavirus patients in case the person needs one.

“Currently the number of patients with ICU ventilators is still appropriate. And so, should that change quickly, what we’re trying to do is not be surprised by that,” Avista Hospital CMO Lief Sorensen said.

It's not something that is standard practice.

“No. So we had to get special FDA approval, which they released. The vendors have been working with us to make arrangements so we could do this,” Calhoun said.

Centura Health, which has 17 hospitals across two states, started making conversions on machines used for anesthesia and BiPAP machines, which are similar to ones used for sleep apnea. The plan is to use them for long-term breathing help.

“We utilize what we already have in the system because as the whole nation is scrambling for equipment and supplies, how do we use what we already have inventively and make sure we came for all the patients?” Centura Health Director of Pulmonary Tanya Lang said.

The few machines could make a big difference.

“If you have several people coming in at once to a place, knowing with a set number of ventilators we have to be able to take care of those patients, we have other options we can do that with. So it’s very important,” Lang explained.

“There’s a need. We’re all looking out for each other,” Calhoun added.