Pacific Northwest Delegation Calling for More Ventilators

Friday, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) joined a bipartisan group of 17 members of Congress from the Pacific Northwest in calling for more ventilators to be sent to the region as it continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and for the administration to develop a national manufacturing goal for new ventilators.

“Our hospitals across the region have grown more concerned that in a short time they will be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients as intensive care unit capacity is reached,” said the lawmakers in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the administration’s lead on the COVD-19 response.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper recently announced that he is providing 2,000 ventilators to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to support the ongoing response to COVID-19. The resources are especially needed in the Pacific Northwest which has disproportionately fewer ventilators than the rest of the county.

Data collected by HHS and the American Association for Respiratory Care shows that Washington and Oregon only have 13 ventilators per 100,000 people and Idaho only has 12 ventilators per 100,000 people. Comparatively, the state median number of ventilators per 100,000 people is 20.5.

“We have seen reports that due to the limited number of ventilators and overwhelming number of patients, physicians in Italy have been forced to make the impossible decision of rationing which patients are more deserving of being saved,” the lawmakers continue in the letter. “We are alarmed by the parallels between Italy and the Pacific Northwest and urge you to prioritize states that have been the hardest hit and have the fewest ventilators per person.”

A recent analysis published in Health Affairs projected that 20.5 million Americans could require hospitalization due to COVID-19. If the infection curve is not flattened and the pandemic peaks over 6 months, there would be a needs gap of 295,350 ICU beds.

“We urge the White House to convene every ventilator manufacturer with the purpose of developing a collective national manufacturing goal to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak,” the letter states. “The stories that have come out of Italy are heart wrenching but we are hopeful that with strategic decision making we can avoid a similar outcome.”

“Washington state does not have enough ventilators to care for the number of patients who may need them if the virus continues to spread at this rate. All supplies are critically low, and our residents need this support to stay safe,” said Cassie Sauer, President and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association. “We thank Reps. DelBene and McMorris Rodgers and all our congressional members for leading the effort to get the supplies and equipment our region desperately needs.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.