Ventilators on the move: Experts say there aren’t enough

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Hospitals in West Michigan are joining thousands across the nation in trying to make sure they are ready for an influx in patients requiring critical care due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation indicates Michigan will reach peak resource use for COVID-19 patients on April 9. On that date, the forecast as of Wednesday indicated 2,514 intensive care unit beds would be needed along with 2,011 ventilators.

The state has 742 ICU beds available, according to the IHME, leaving a shortage of 1,772 beds, according to the latest published forecast.

The IHME does not indicate how many ventilators are available in the state. A report published by Bridge Magazine indicated there were 1,700 machines available.

Major West Michigan hospitals did not provide information about the number of ventilators on hand when reached by News 8.

A spokesperson at Spectrum Health said the hospital has acquired more.

“With some kinds of equipment, trying to share a specific total in a fluid situation such as this is difficult since resources are prioritized and assigned based on daily needs. We have acquired additional ventilators in the past couple of weeks and continue to monitor our equipment and supply levels as we project a surge in patients,” the statement read. “In addition, there are regional, state and federal agencies we can coordinate with when faced with shortages. Spectrum Health is constantly evaluating its resources in responding to this pandemic.”

Officials with Mercy Health and Bronson Hospital reached early Wednesday afternoon said they were working to respond to questions about ventilators on hand but had not done so as of Wednesday evening. A Metro Health spokesperson said no one was available to comment on the matter.

Wednesday morning, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s was relocating some ventilators from the hospital’s south campus on Byron Center Avenue to the main campus on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids.

Brent Webster, a contractor for Reliable Delivery, was trucking the machines for the hospital.

“I think they’re really getting ready for a worst-case scenario,” Webster told News 8 shortly after he loaded four ventilators to transport for the hospital. “I think they’re just being really prepared is what they’re doing.”

Webster said his involvement in the process made the coronavirus crisis more real to him.

“You hear about all of the things going on in the background but — and I have done medical deliveries before — but this kind of really hits home,” Webster said. “I’ve said prayers about this since yesterday. I’ve been praying in my head about it and hoping they never ever have to use these. If they do, I just — I hope that they pull through, whoever they are.”

The ventilator shortage has production of the machines going into overdrive. General Motors and Ford are both retooling assembly lines used in the automobile-making process to instead make ventilator machines.