Federal ventilator stockpile has only 16,600 units, says CPI report

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | March 26, 2020

“The ventilator model acquired in 2001 was the Uni-Vent Eagle 754 (Impact Instrumentation, West Caldwell, New Jersey), followed in 2003 by the LP10 (Puritan Bennett, Pleasanton, California). In August 2006, the DSNS received notification from Puritan Bennett that the company would cease manufacture and worldwide sales of the LP10 by November 2006,” she wrote at the time.

To help meet demand, industry is stepping up, including GE Healthcare, which is moving to round-the-clock ventilator production.

“As the global pandemic evolves, there is unprecedented demand for medical equipment, including ventilators,” GE Healthcare’s chief executive officer Kieran Murphy said in a statement. “We continue to explore all options to support this increased need.”

The trade-offs for SNS purchase decisions were between many competing needs, which Burel said forced “hard” choices — obscure pharmaceuticals likely to go out of production without government buys versus the ventilators, which were already a popular item in the medical world and would continue to be produced in fairly large numbers.

More were bought, however. The tally rose to 8,000 in 2010 and to the 16,600 now stockpiled, HSS's Amber Dukes told the authors by email.

Nor would the machines alone be enough — trained staff to run them is not available at the estimated numbers, according to the reporters, citing a 2015 federal report that estimated only another 50,000 new patients could be safely ventilated at this point.

The situation is just that much worse for already stressed rural hospitals, noted David Wallace, a critical care specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.

“If we expect patients to remain in those locations, that’s going to put new stresses and strains on those hospitals,” he told CPI.

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