Australia has “more than sufficient” ventilator capacity to care for an influx of coronavirus patients based on the latest predictions of coronavirus spread, according to one of the nation’s top doctors.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told a press conference this afternoon that Australia has set a national target of having access to 7500 ventilators – almost triple the number available before the pandemic.
Currently, only 35 of the most critically ill COVID-19 patients in Australia’s intensive care units require ventilators.
“The average number of ventilators in Australia, ventilated beds, is nine per 100,000, so it ends up close to a tripling of that capacity,” Dr Coatsworth said.
“We saw the modelling released by the Prime Minister and (Chief Medical Officer) Professor Murphy a few days ago which demonstrates that, with a reduction in the transmission rate we are seeing, that that will be more than sufficient to be able to cover any intensive care needs.”
The announcement follows another day of a steady decline in the rate of new infections, with a total of 6068 COVID-19 cases now confirmed Australia-wide.
Of those, 260 are receiving treatment in hospital and 82 are in intensive care.
Many of the new ventilators will be sourced from ResMed, a US-based company, which has been contracted by the government to provide 500 invasive ventilators and 5000 non-invasive ventilators – a type of ventilation not typically used in intensive care, but which can be modified in the case of an influx of patients.
Dr Coatsworth said he was “very confident” that the new ventilators would arrive within weeks.
Dr Coatsworth also announced that Australia would be moving to building more ventilators onshore, amid global shortages.
“A contract has been made with an Australian company to be able to fabricate those. This is a major change in our manufacturing capacity within Australia to assist the ventilators that are already being procured from ResMed,” he said.
The Deputy CMO also addressed concerns of a shortage of qualified staff to operate the highly technically machines, saying that over 12,000 nurses have now enrolled in their online training program to upskill to provide intensive care.
“We are looking at every doctor in the country who has capacity to manage an unconscious patient – in particular, a collaboration between our colleagues of intensive care medicine and College of Anesthetists to make sure our anaesthetic workforce is able to move into an intensive care environment and assist in helping severely unwell COVID-19 patients,” Dr Coatsworth said.
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