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story.lead_photo.caption One of the ventilators is shown at National Park Medical Center. (Courtesy Photo)

HOT SPRINGS -- As Arkansas nears its projected peak of the pandemic, hospitals are conserving resources to prepare for an increase in covid-19 patients, and a lifesaving commodity in every medical facility worldwide has been ventilators.

The Arkansas Department of Health confirmed that Garland County hospitals have a combined 23 ventilators, but would not disclose how many were currently in use.

"The number of people around the state who have been on ventilators has been pretty consistently low; around 25 at any given time, which is good because for a person to require a ventilator, that means they're really, really sick," Garland County health officer Dr. Gene Shelby said.

During Gov. Asa Hutchinson's daily briefing Thursday, Health Secretary Dr. Nate Smith said 31 covid-19 patients were on ventilators, which was three more than on Wednesday.

Shelby noted that although he does not think the number of ventilators in the state is currently an issue, if Garland County hospitals were to run out of the machines, patients would either be transferred somewhere that had ventilators, or more ventilators would be moved into the county.

Not every covid-19 patient requires the assistance of a ventilator, but Shelby said those who do mostly have underlying lung disease or heart problems.

"What happens is, they get the infection in the bronchial tubes and in the lungs and it kind of builds up a lot of fluid in the lungs, so by the time a person needs to be on a ventilator, they're really struggling to breathe and the oxygen level in their blood is going down," he said. "That's when the doctors have to put a tube down into their throat and into their lungs and hook it up to the ventilator. The ventilator, it supplies a high concentration of oxygen, but it also puts the air into the lungs with a fair amount of force to push the oxygen into the bronchial tubes so it can get into the bloodstream."

Shelby said when patients are sick enough to require a ventilator, "a lot of them are not able to come off of the ventilator."

Dr. Doug Ross, president of CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs, said the facility has had some patients admitted who needed a ventilator, but a lot of them didn't.

"Some patients ... just with the support, with giving them extra oxygen, giving them IV fluids, giving them different medications, we're able to support them through the illness and they can go home," Ross said. "Certainly the ones where the supplemental oxygen is not enough to adequately oxygenate their blood, those are the ones that we have to put on a ventilator and put a breathing tube down their throat, and that ventilator is our most advanced way of really forcing oxygen into the body."

As for resource conservation aside from ventilators in Garland County hospitals, CHI St. Vincent and National Park Medical Center have both been storing away supplies and are taking donations of certain personal protective equipment.

Ross said CHI St. Vincent has been stockpiling supplies since the start of the pandemic.

"We've been very, very resourceful, looking at a lot of different areas to get [protective equipment], we've thought outside the box, we've even bought supplies from paint stores and welding supply stores -- a lot of those industrial masks are identical to the kind that we use in health care," he said. "We have hospitals in 22 states across the country, so we're able to really shift resources across the country to different hospitals that may be getting a little bit low."

Ross said CHI St. Vincent also is accepting donations of equipment from the community.

"It's been so refreshing to see the community come together to lean in and help the hospitals in these various ways," he said. "We're right now at a very good place in our reserves of personal protective equipment; we've done a very good job of kind of stockpiling supplies, but, as we can see if this pandemic stretches several weeks or several months, it can obviously put strains on those resources, so anytime the community can lean in and assist with those types of things, we're certainly going to be very, very grateful for that."

Mandy Golleher, National Park Medical Center's director of marketing and communications, said the facility has been watching its supplies and equipment closely and planning ahead for potential increases in coronavirus cases.

The hospital announced Wednesday that it is accepting donations of unused and handmade medical and protective supplies and equipment.

"This move is part of National Park Medical Center's ongoing efforts to address the covid-19 pandemic and prepare for increased needs of personal protective equipment (PPE), which health care providers across the nation are experiencing," the release said.

Joann Ettien, interim CEO at National Park Medical Center, said in the release that thes donations are another avenue for the community to help.

"Whether you are making the handmade masks in the comfort of your home, or you run a business such as a spa, dental office or optometry clinic currently closed during the pandemic, there is an opportunity for you to help with the supplies you have on-hand," Ettien said.

According to the release, the hospital can accept the following:

Disposable face masks including surgical masks and ear-loop masks.

Handmade/fabric masks.

Respirator masks rated N95 or higher.

Face shields and goggles to protect eyes.

Disposable gowns such as medical/dental gowns as well as impervious or isolation gowns.

Disposable surgical caps.

Disposable foot covers.

Hand sanitizer.

At this time, the hospital cannot accept medical devices, medications or linens, the release said.

"Those with supplies and equipment to donate may contact administration at 501-620-1400 to ensure that the donation is something that the hospital will be able to use or distribute and to arrange delivery," it said.

During his news conference, Hutchinson said the 2.6 hospitalizations per 100,000 population in Arkansas is less than surrounding states and other states in the South. Hutchinson warned this could change in "a moment's notice" if residents "don't do the right thing," referring to maintaining social distancing and quarantining if traveling in from out of state.

He noted that the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projected Arkansas by now to have 170 covid-19 patients in the hospital, but instead the number of hospitalized has "kept steady" at 70.

Smith said that with the 1,094 cases reported in Arkansas, 841 are active, 21 people have died and 73 are hospitalized.

He noted that from Wednesday to Thursday, 21 patients were admitted to hospitals, but 24 had been discharged.

"So although we're continuing to have new people hospitalized, we're also continuing to release people from the hospital," Smith said.

NW News on 04/11/2020

Print Headline: Ventilator count at 23 for county


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