BEVERLY GROVE (CBSLA) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he would use a law dating back to the early years of the Cold War to address serious shortages of supplies needed to treat patients diagnosed with coronavirus — including ventilators.
In serious COVID-19 cases, doctors need ventilators to help patients who can no longer breathe on their own, and Cedars Sinai Chief Operating Officer Dr. Jeff Smith said the hospital was doing its best to prepare.
“So we have plenty now, and we’re looking ahead,” Smith said. “We have some in a reserve capacity that we are mobilizing and preparing in case we need them. It really depends on how many patients come and at what rate. The government does have a stash of ventilators that they can distribute in emergencies like this — according to need — we are not anywhere near that point yet.”
Ahead of the expected surge in patients, Cedars Sinai set up mobile treatment areas in parking lots and worked to ensure adequate staffing in the ICU.
“ICU stands for intensive care unit,” Dr. Peter Chen said. “It’s where we put the more severe patients that need a higher level of care.”
Chen is the director of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Cedars Sinai, and has already treated COVID-19 patients.
“Many people are actually very mildly symptomatic,” he said. “The patients that get severely ill with COVID are presenting with severe respiratory failure, and many diseases can mimic this.”
This is why ventilators are critical, and why a shortage could have horrific consequences as it has in other countries where doctors have been forced to choose between patients.
“We don’t know why certain people get worse versus others,” Chen said. “What we have seen in this disease is that it seems like it is very much age related.”
The hospital said it was planning for worst-case scenarios, but hoping for the best.
Hospital officials asked that people experiencing flu-like symptoms contact their primary care physicians before coming to the hospital, and only coming into the hospital if they are experiencing serious symptoms such as trouble breathing.