Ventilators on hand for flu patents, hospitals say

As emergency rooms and beds at local hospitals fill up with patients sickened with swine flu, area stockpiles of ventilators are intact, according to local hospitals.

Community Hospital has a policy of not removing a ventilator that one person has been using so that it can be given to another patient. A national shortage of ventilators has spread concerns that the breathing apparatuses that elderly patients or chronically ill patients are using would be turned over to younger patients or those with swine flu who have trouble breathing on their own.

“If we have a patient on one, we would not take them off it,” said Becky Jessen, marketing director at Community Hospital, speaking for the respiratory therapist staff.

The hospital has equipment-sharing agreements with St. Mary’s Hospital. If more ventilators were needed, Community Hospital could receive some apparatuses on loan from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Community Hospital also has ordered more of the devices, but it’s unclear when those will arrive because of a shortage.

St. Mary’s Hospital is seeing a surge of patients with flulike symptoms, and the hospital has an adequate supply of ventilators, spokeswoman Samantha Moe said.

There have been 25 deaths in Colorado attributed to the H1N1 virus as of Oct. 24. Seven of those deaths were children, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Meanwhile, 1,306 people with the virus have been hospitalized in Colorado as of Oct. 24, the state reports. Thirteen people have been hospitalized in Mesa County with H1N1 virus between Aug. 30 and Oct. 24, the Health Department said.

State laboratory testing shows that 99 percent of flu cases in Colorado are the H1N1 virus.

On average nationwide, 36,000 people a year die from complications attributed to seasonal flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year for flulike symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deaths from seasonal flu are largely concentrated among elderly populations. Young children are at high risk of complications from the H1N1 virus, the CDC said.


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