At least 1 N.Y. hospital has 2 patients on single ventilator as coronavirus cases rise

At least one New York hospital has begun putting two patients on a single ventilator machine, an experimental crisis-mode protocol some doctors worry is too risky but others deemed necessary as the coronavirus outbreak strains medical resources.

The coronavirus causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19 that in severe cases can ravage the lungs. It has killed at least 281 people over a few weeks in New York City, which is struggling with one of the largest caseloads in the world at nearly 22,000 confirmed cases.

A tool of last resort that involves threading a tube down a patient’s windpipe, a mechanical ventilator can sustain a person who can no longer breathe unaided. The city only has a few thousand and is trying to find tens of thousands more.

Dr. Craig Smith, surgeon-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, wrote in a newsletter to staff that anesthesiology and intensive care teams had worked “day and night” to get the split-ventilation experiment going.

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