The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has caused a global health crisis, with many people requiring medical assistance to help them breathe. Estimates suggest that around 6% of those infected with COVID-19 become seriously ill, and approximately one in four of these individuals may need a ventilator to help them breathe. A ventilator is a device that pumps air with additional oxygen into the airways of patients who are unable to breathe properly on their own. It is used to support breathing during surgery and for those with severe lung damage due to injury or illness, such as COVID-19. Patients are sedated and a tube is inserted into their trachea and connected to the machine.
This helps to maintain their lungs until their bodies can fight the virus. Ventilators are essential for those with severe symptoms of COVID-19, as the virus can cause respiratory distress and an inability to get enough oxygen. Approximately 2.5% of patients need mechanical ventilation while their body fights infection.1 Once patients with COVID-19 reach the point of critical illness where ventilation is needed, they tend to deteriorate rapidly. During the pandemic, patients with other conditions may also present at the hospital and need emergency ventilation.
However, ventilation for a patient with COVID-19 can last 2 to 3 weeks. Consequently, if all ventilators are in use, there will be no time for patients to queue to wait for those who arrived earlier to recover. Those who need a ventilator will die if they don't get access to one quickly. It is therefore essential that hospitals have enough ventilators available for those who require them during this pandemic.