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Friday, May 9, 2008

Quick Review of “Definitive Care for the Critically Ill During a Disaster”

This week the report from the “Task Force for Mass Critical Care Summit, January 26–27, 2007” was published in CHEST. The series is titled “Definitive Care for the Critically Ill During a Disaster”. It consists of five separate articles subtitled:
  • Summary of Suggestions From the Task Force for Mass Critical Care Summit
  • Current Capabilities and Limitations
  • A Framework for Optimizing Critical Care Surge Capacity
  • Medical Resources for Surge Capacity
  • A Framework for Allocation of Scarce Resources in Mass Critical Care

I quickly read through all these papers this week. I will review each of them in more detail in upcoming postings. You can get all five of the published articles for free at this location. Thank you CHEST for supplying these articles for free. If you are involved in pandemic planning, I urge you to download these papers and read them. They offer many suggestions and solid frameworks for planning your response to a mass critical care incident.

The publishing of these papers has generated a few news reports this week. Most of the newspaper articles were sensational, focusing mainly on the list of classes of people that would be excluded from care. Here are a couple of news links. AP, Globe and Mail.

When you read these news articles you would think that the summit meeting was all about denying care. When you read the actual papers you will see that the summit was really about providing the best care possible under various worsening and even the nearly hopeless conditions that could possibly occur. The sensational articles referred to the list of recommendations of who would be refused care in the most severe crisis. This list was merely a suggestion, and the authors state in the papers that there must be an ethical discussion of these issues by non medical professional people to determine whether society will accept these criteria.

The papers do not focus only on pandemic planning, but stress that plans must be flexible enough to account for many different types of mass casualty incidents. The included charts list nearly every type of incident and the appropriate responses. Still the main focus is on pandemic preparedness. Short of a nuclear war, a severe pandemic is probably the incident that would most stress the existing critical care infrastructure.

Some of the papers I have read before these on pandemic planning were very complex and tedious to follow. Many other papers focus on the numerous problems, give many “what if “ scenarios and concentrate a lot on how little we know. These papers focus more on how to get to a solution rather than moaning about the hopelessness of it all. The planning goals are focussed on three main areas; stuff, staff, and space. Essentially they say you have to have enough of each. If you are well prepared in two areas and short in the third, you are still limited by that area. They focus less on trying to predict the severity of any incident and more on how hospitals can maximize their ability to respond.

Stuff is things like ventilators, medications, PPE and other medical supplies. Staff is the number of staff that are not affected by the event plus the number of addition personnel that can be trained and used as well as how much you can increase the number of patients existing staff can care for. Space is the suitable areas that can be used to provide complex critical care.

In a nutshell, they recommend that facilities aim to increase by a factor of 3, the amount of critical care (including ventilators) they can provide, and also stockpile enough supplies to last about 10 days, with perhaps some additional buffer, and to ensure they can maximize their staffing and space to make this possible. I think these are very good recommendations. They are very similar to the recommendations I posted on the BMG website last year. I also suggested that facilities try to increase their ability to manage ventilated patients by up to a factor of 3 in one of my posts last year.

They warn that manual ventilation will not work. They are very skeptical that sharing ventilators among several patients will work with real patients that have ARDS. They provide an extensive list of requirements that facilities should look for when purchasing ventilators for surge capacity, but acknowledge that is unlikely that anyone will actually buy that many ventilators ahead of time. They also provide a much shorter list of the minimum requirements for a ventilator in suggestion 3.2:

(1) be able to oxygenate and ventilate most pediatric and adult patients with either significant airflow obstruction or ARDS
(2) be able to function with low-flow oxygen and without high-pressure medical gas
(3) accurately deliver a prescribed minute ventilation when patients are not breathing spontaneously
(4) have sufficient alarms to alert the operator to apnea, circuit disconnect, low gas source, low battery, and high peak airway pressures

The pandemic ventilator should be able to meet those short list minimum requirements.

My son Jeff is taking his own pandemic ventilator design “Norman” to the Canada Wide Science Fair in Ottawa this week. I will have a more detailed report on “Norman” next week. I think you will be impressed with the work Jeff has done. I am.

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