JUNE 2011 (ST. LOUIS) --For the healthcare worker, finding the right mobile ventilator during a crisis can be a daunting task, if not impossible. Allied Healthcare, a St. Louis-based company that manufactures high quality medical products, announces a new and affordable group of mobile ventilators designed specifically for mass casualty needs (emergency situations).
“American hospitals face two very challenging scenarios in delivering mechanical ventilation,” said Earl Refsland, CEO of Allied Healthcare. “The first presents itself when an external event, such as a pandemic or natural disaster, creates a patient surge that cannot be met with the number of ventilators on hand. The second presents itself when the hospital itself must be evacuated, such as took place during Katrina, or faces an extended period of power loss, such as took place in Joplin. In either scenario, rugged, easy-to-operate ventilators with the capacity to function for extended periods on batteries are lifesavers. Normal hospital ventilators, while marvelous instruments in the hands of competent clinicians, are simply not designed for such a crisis.”
No electricity. No problem. Designed to operate in gyms, on parking lots, in hastily assembled medical tents, the Allied Mass Casualty Ventilators are designed to survive when the infrastructure collapses. Typically a respiratory therapist can handle seven or so patients, but during an emergency a facility may be handling hundreds of people. These units have been designed so that respiratory therapists can supervise medical reservists or emergency care workers to handle the hundreds of people in need.
“If you can’t breathe nothing else matters,” said Jack Dabrowski, Allied’s National Product Manager. “Early responders and medical providers have six minutes to deliver ventilation to people. Our engineers have created compressor-driven ventilators with long-life batteries that are completely mobile with no need for electricity or gas. These Mass Casualty Ventilators can be acquired for as little as $3,000 per unit, as opposed to $30,000 for a typical hospital ventilator. As we have learned from events in the past, such as Katrina, a mass casualty event is twofold and has to be planned for accordingly. The initial event, whether it is a flood, tornado, terrorist attack, etc, must be met with ventilators and equipment that can be deployed immediately and utilized in a disaster situation. This type of equipment must be rugged, easy to use, and battery powered. The result of this initial event is a patient surge to surrounding area hospitals. These hospitals and medical facilities may not have been damaged by the event, but they must be prepared to handle the inevitable patient surge that’s accompanied by a mass casualty situation. These hospitals must be able to deploy efficient, simple-to-use ventilators that can be considered force multipliers, as their trained respiratory staff will soon be outnumbered and must rely on non-respiratory staff (nurses, EMTs) to assist in mechanical ventilation.”
Also, research shows that in an emergency many of the respiratory therapists cannot make it to the disaster site. Their equipment is not mobile and the larger hospital units need a highly trained respiratory therapist to operate them. The Allied system is affordable, mobile and with a little supervision can be quickly turned over to a lesser trained medical staffer.
Adam North, Disaster Preparedness Chairman for the Louisiana Society of Respiratory Care, consulted with the state of Louisiana on their purchase of over 1,000 Allied ventilators. “No one can prepare for all eventualities in a catastrophic event,” said North. “When we are at war with the forces of Mother Nature we need to do our best to provide the most efficient resources for our medical facilities. Japan never foresaw the force of its most recent earthquake. All we can do is to construct the most comprehensive plans possible and carefully invest our funds wisely. Nothing is more critical in my opinion then making sure there is mobile equipment available to ensure the best possible outcomes for our ICU and seriously ill patients.”
Frank Rando, a nationally recognized disaster planner, respiratory therapist, Homeland Security advisor and a member of the University of Arizona faculty is a big proponent of disaster medicine planning. “Any strong emergency preparedness response must acknowledge the need for mass casualty ventilation,” said Rando. “These plans need to place mobile equipment in local facilities because time is of the essence. We have minutes to respond and unless equipment is within a close proximity to an event then we are constructing our own Maginot Line of antiquated healthcare supplies.”
In the event of a moderately severe pandemic, it is estimated that ventilator shortages would exceed 70,000 ventilator units. Further, because patient surges will greatly exceed the number of available respiratory therapists, any ventilators stockpiled against such an event must be simple to use by supplemental medical staff.
Experts generally agree that there is neither the time nor the resources available to quickly distribute this equipment to the local areas in need. Right now the vast majority of local hospitals have an insufficient amount of mobile ventilator equipment available to meet their emergency plan needs.
“Local access to mobile ventilators is the most important appropriate way to address this challenge,” said Dabrowski. “Hospitals need to acknowledge the logistical distribution challenges. This is an issue that must be solved in within the first critical minutes of a disaster. Hundreds, even thousands, of people could be lost if our planners accept a number of days solution versus a matter of minutes.”
One of the major challenges facing a hospital facility in the middle of a disaster today is how to provide breathing support for their ICU and critically injured or ill patients. There seems to be no way the hospital has enough respiratory therapists available fast enough to deal with a major catastrophe or a flu-like pandemic.
Local placement of mobile ventilators offers a strong alternative option. Affordable and efficient, these units, under minimal supervision, could maintain patients’ ability to breathe until the systems devastated come back on-line.
Allied Healthcare Products, Inc., is an American manufacturing company based in St. Louis, Missouri, employing 309 people, 207 of which are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union. Allied markets a variety of respiratory products used in the healthcare industry in a range of hospital and alternate care settings including sub-acute facilities, home healthcare and emergency medical care. Allied product lines include respiratory care products, medical gas equipment and emergency medical products.