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A state committee drafting guidelines on who should get ventilators if supply is scarce delayed action Thursday, in part because the need has become less urgent as COVID-19 activity appears to have leveled off.
“We’re now in a situation where time is on our side,” said Dr. Azita Hamedani, chair of the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee. “That wasn’t the case two or three or four weeks ago when we started.”
A committee work group last week released proposed ventilator triage guidelines, saying patients likely to survive at least a year and who are younger should get ventilators if not enough are available in a potential COVID-19 surge.
The committee was set to vote on the guidelines Thursday. But the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations, which said the proposed guidelines were mostly fair, suggested some changes. Andrea Palm, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, called for a broader “stakeholder engagement process” before guidelines are adopted.
Hamedani, chair of UW-Madison’s emergency medicine department, said the committee should also learn more about ventilator triage guidelines in other states and at hospitals in Wisconsin that already have them. Several committee members said there was not as much of a rush to adopt state guidelines as before.
“There was a lot of pressure on the work group with anticipation of a surge,” said Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Hospital Association. “But I think we all feel that perhaps that pressure is less.”
Some 343 of 1,223 ventilators at Wisconsin hospitals are being used, a hospital association dashboard said Thursday. Some 471 of 1,437 intensive care beds are in use, 162 of them by patients with COVID-19, the dashboard said.
Doctors have started using alternative breathing devices on some COVID-19 patients instead of ventilators. Wisconsin likely had its peak in use of hospital resources for COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to a widely cited model by the University of Washington, though health officials say such models have limitations and a larger epidemic could still arise. “We’re likely to see things settling down for a bit,” said Dr. Jonathan Temte, a committee member who is a UW-Madison family medicine specialist and an expert on respiratory viruses. “But I still wonder whether or not we’re going to see a resurgence come autumn.”