The new coronavirus crisis has forced hard conversations about how to prioritize ventilators in civilian medical centers across the country, as states, hospitals, and medical professionals look at factors such as age and pre-existing conditions when deciding who most deserves these life-support machines.
Although the Air Force has “sufficient” stores of ventilators “at the moment,” USAF Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg says the service has a different game plan if the situation changes.
“I am gonna do everything in my power to get the ventilators that I need, where I need them, when I need them, and I am not going to … be the person to say who gets one or who doesn’t get one,” she told Air Force Magazine.
USAF’s protocol for its hospitals is to make its existing ventilators stretch to support more COVID-19 positive patients, she explained.
“In a scenario where the number of COVID-19 patients in respiratory failure exceeds available ventilators, the attending provider has the discretion to split a ventilator to support multiple patients,” she said. “In this situation, the provider will apply specific risks and demands of this procedure to make sound decisions.”
However, she said, even the decision to split ventilators requires discussion between patients, their families, and their healthcare providers.
The service also plans to hunt down unused ventilators within the USAF enterprise and transport them “to hospitals with a greater need,” she said.