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Why ventilators are so crucial in Australia’s COVID-19 fight

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The Australian Medical Association hopes the federal government has “their ducks lined up” as the demand for life-saving ventilators in Australia becomes increasingly urgent.

Exclusive: The Australian Medical Association hopes the Federal Government has "their ducks lined up" as the demand for life-saving ventilators in Australia becomes increasingly urgent.

Like other governments around the world battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Canberra is rushing to double its number of ventilator units, from 2000 to 4000.

But the South Australian AMA president, Dr Chris Moy, has warned ventilators are "just one part of the puzzle" and "it will be a major problem" if Australia is not prepared with robust plans and supplies.

A medical ventilator is fixed to a dummy at the Vivantes Humboldt Hospital in Berlin, Germany. Due to the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the availability of ventilators is limited.

"The bottom line is we need ventilators," Dr Moy said.

"They are going to be critical if the peak happens and intensive care units are deluged."

Dr Moy hoped the government had "geared up" sufficiently for the expected oncoming wave of ICU admissions.

"Have they got their ducks lined up?" Dr Moy asked.

"You need the ventilators but you also need other equipment.

"You need personal protective equipment (PPE) and trained staff who can run the machines and monitor patients."

Without ventilators, the lungs of COVID-19 sufferers fill with pus and patients can die, after a "cascading flow of life-threatening pressures" hits the heart and other vital organs.

Dr Moy said he had held personal discussions with Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, where the issue of ventilators and PPE shortages was addressed.

"I am aware they have got teams on this," he said.

"I have no visibility over government orders or stocks or supply lines … but I am hoping the government has got this right.

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"Because if they haven't, it will be a major problem for us."

Dr Moy said masks, gowns, goggles, hair covers and gloves were in desperately short supply.

His GP clinic, staffed by 25 doctors, was recently down to its final box of 50 masks.

Do you know more? Email has previously reported on a major Australian medical supplier running out of PPE and some doctors in Perth hospitals in operating rooms with no masks.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt last month said there was a standing capacity of 2000 ventilators in Australia.

"We are looking to double that, using existing arrangements and stock currently available, to 4000," Mr Hunt said.

A man constructs a medical ventilator at the OES medical supply company in Witney, Britain. OES builds and supplies medical ventilators globally. They are altering their designs to make it more efficient and user-friendly to use in treating coronavirus.

Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel was in the early stages of scoping out local manufacturers to build 5000 additional respiratory and ventilator units, Mr Hunt said.

In normal circumstances Australia could look to other countries for help with ventilators but all nations need the machines now.

The vacuum powerhouse, Dyson, is producing thousands of ventilators for Britain's hospitals. Elon Musk's Tesla has also stepped in to meet growing US demand.

Dr Moy said health authorities in Australia were looking at repurposing old machines, some which had even found their way into veterinary clinics.

"My understanding is a lot of the older ones could be incredibly useful because they were built to last."

Why you may need a ventilator if you have COVID-19

Around 15 to 20 per cent of people with COVID-19 will develop a very specific type of pneumonia.

With pneumonia, pus will fill your lungs and your lungs will stop working.

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When you can't absorb enough oxygen, incredible strain is placed on your heart and other organs.

There is a domino effect on your body, and the impact may be so catastrophic it kills you.

A ventilator gets oxygen into your lungs, when you are too tired to breathe.

At a certain point your lungs cannot suck in enough oxygen and your body will tire.

You'll also suffer dehydration because you are puffing so hard.

But the ventilator will breathe for you, pumping high levels of oxygen-enriched air into your lungs.

How COVID-19 affects the body and could kill you.

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Source: 9News

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