• Aurika Savickaite

Doctor rigs ventilator to double up patients with COVID-19

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

A ventilator can be rigged to serve two or four patients with COVID-19!

A Canadian doctor has rigged a ventilator to double the number of patients he can serve at his rural hospital.

Dr. Alain Gauthier, an anesthetist at the Perth and Smith Falls District Hospital in Ontario, got the idea from a YouTube video by Charlene Babcock, an emergency physician in Michigan, CBC News reported.

Babcock created the how-to video to help doctors around the world respond to COVID-19. She shows how to hook up equipment and explains how it could be used for patients who have similar lung capacities. Babcock shows how a single ventilator could be used for two or four patients at a time.

In the video, Babcock explains this technique hasn’t been studied, but it has been used in practice, following the 2017 mass shootings at a music festival in Las Vegas. There is a risk for cross-contamination, Babcock said in the video, but if it is used for COVID-19 patients, they would have the same infection.

Gauthier told the press it’s not perfect, but “if it comes to last resort, I'm prepared to use it." His hospital serves an older population, many with underlying health conditions. Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Helmet-based ventilation is another alternative doctors can use to help patients in respiratory distress from COVID-19. While it’s not FDA approved nor used on a regular basis in ICUs, noninvasive ventilation via helmet is another option to try. Helmets also can be used without a ventilator when they are hooked up to wall oxygen. This is a viable solution for about 20% of patients.

A shortage of ventilators is hampering clinicians and hospitals around the world as they care for patients with coronavirus, and according to the New York Times there is no way to solve the problem before it becomes a crisis.

A Daily Mail article "Canadian doctor turns one ventilator into nine with some 'evil genius' DIY mechanics - winning fans, including Elon Musk" about Gauthier is misleading, stating he could connect nine patients to one ventilator. Original reports say he doubled the number of patients he can serve by placing two patients on one ventilator. His hospital has four new ventilators and four older ones in reserve.


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