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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Canada to Buy Ventilators for the H1N1 Flu

I saw an article in the Globe and Mail Today. I posted a comment on the article. Here is my comment:

The potential shortage of ventilators has been an issue with ethicists and planners for a while now. Most feared for the pandemic was the H5N1 Avian flu. Some officials thought that stockpiling ventilators would be a waste of resources because the expected H5N1 pandemic would be so severe that there would not be enough hospital staff or supplies to run them anyway.

With the comparatively mild H1N1 strain, some feel that existing resources will be adequate. The truth of the matter is that predicting the severity of a future pandemic is nearly impossible. It could be anywhere in between these extremes, and can change rapidly during the course of a pandemic as well. Many experts are concerned that with the very high numbers of infections happening with the H1N1 strain, that even a moderate increase in the severity of illness could cause widespread shortages of ventilators.

The Canadian and Ontario governments have not done very much up to this point of addressing the potential of a very deadly ventilator shortage. Governments in the US that have done the most to provide a creditable emergency supply have mostly focused on buying low cost, lower tech ventilators that can be operated by individuals with moderate training levels. The optimal number to purchase is between one and two times the current number of ventilators being used in ICU units.

I have a discussion of some of these issues in my blog at Pay special attention to an article I wrote more than 2 years ago comparing the government and Canadian Red Cross's inadequate response to the issue of AIDS contamination in the blood supply.

I will be gone fishing for the next 2 weeks.


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