The coronavirus situation is so desperate in New York that doctors at the Northwell Health hospital system are making backup ventilators out of sleep apnea machines and are sharing the instructions online.
Why is Northwell Health making ventilators out of Sleep Apnea machines?
The health system – which has 23 hospitals throughout New York – hasn’t yet run out of ventilators but they are preparing for the worst case scenario – a “mega-tsunami” of cases said Dr. Hugh Cassiere, who worked on the technology.
“The state government has been very helpful distributing ventilators not just to our health system but to others,” Cassiere said. “You can quickly deplete your supply. You thought you had enough ventilators, now you don’t.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo – who has seen his popularity skyrocket since the beginning of this crisis – even mentioned the innovation as one of “a number of options” during his press conference on Tuesday.
“Northwell developed an idea to use a BiPAP machine,” Cuomo said. “We’ve ordered 7,000 of those. … We’re working and figuring it out.”
According to Cassiere, doctors have already used the machines to save lives. Cassiere emphasizes that using these machines is a last ditch option: “You have two alternatives: The patient dies or you think of something else,” he said. “This is the something else.”
What type of machine did they convert?
The doctors are converting Philips Respironics V60 BiPAP machines into respirators by adding 3D-printed adapters so patients can be intubated and particulate air filters.
“Everything that needs to be done is built into that machine. That’s one of the reasons why we put in the press release this particular machine with the pressure control option,” Cassiere said.
The next two weeks are expected to be extremely critical in the fight against COVID-19, the virus that originated in a Chinese wet market late last year and has since spread around the globe in the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918.
According to President Trump, we are headed for a “very painful two weeks” as Wuhan virus infections and fatalities are expected to skyrocket, which may overwhelm the healthcare system. Doctors are hoping that innovations like these – and the ability to rapidly share them with other doctors over the internet – can help reduce the number of fatalities that we see in the coming weeks. It’s also important that everyone else does their part and remains quarantined during this critical phase.