ECMO Crisis: Gov. Ducey Tracking Ventilators, But it’s ECMOs That Are in Short Supply for the Very Sickest COVID Patients

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working ecmo machine in intensive care department

Ongoing analysis of Governor Ducey’s COVID-19 pressers:

May 22th: Proof Ducey’s Lying: Arizona’s NOT Ready to Re-Open

May 29th: Governor Ducey Continues to Lie About Arizona’s COVID-19 Status

June 4th: Ducey Stays on Course for Re-Opening, Despite COVID-19 Resurgence

Governor Ducey has consistently cited the available supply of ventilators as a key metric for Arizona’s preparedness for the spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations we’ve seen over the past week.

Both his press conferences and his DHS website are actively tracking this metric:

Looking at Arizona’s availability of ventilators might be reassuring to many who know that these are vital life-saving equipment.

But the VERY sickest COVID-19 patients, those whose lungs have TOTALLY shut down, will die without treatment with an ECMO, an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine. It basically oxygenates one’s blood inside a machine, replacing lung function entirely. It’s the last-ditch equipment to save a life when COVID-19 has so damaged your lungs that supplemental oxygen or intubation with a ventilator just isn’t enough to preserve your life.

But Arizona isn’t tracking the availability of ECMOs. At least not publicly.

Now Arizona’s largest health network, Banner, has run out of them.

This may become the new ventilator shortage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just like ventilators, these are expensive and specialized equipment in limited supply. As we improve our ability to treat the very sickest using ECMOs, these machines may become scarce and limit life-saving treatment as they run out.

An acquaintance of mine has a brother-in-law that has been on ECMO treatment here in Tucson for weeks to save his life. He would have died without it. But treatment takes weeks for the lungs to heal enough to sustain life on a ventilator again. As long as one person is using it, it’s not available to treat others.

Does the fact that Arizona’s health care system is reaching capacity of available ECMOs indicate that we are now facing the rationing of life-saving care? I fear that it does.

Ducey has said that a critical measure of whether we are prepared to face new a new resurgence in the epidemic is whether we can take care of patients without “crisis care” (B4AZ exclusive content).

“The measure here is that we can treat all patients without crisis care,” said Ducey during his presser on 6/4/20.

I don’t know about Ducey, but I think if your lungs stop working and the only way to save your life is to hook you up to an ECMO to take over oxygenating your blood – and we are out of available ECMOs – that’s a problem with “crisis care”.

How close to the edge of a systemic health crisis does Ducey require we get before he pulls back from his foolish experiment with Arizonans’ lives?

Must we actually run out of ECMOs state-wide before Ducey will change course? How many must die needlessly before he will call off his arrogant and politically motivated experiment?

BlogForArizona has been following Governor Ducey’s press availabilities on the COVID-19 crisis closely and posting analysis after each one. Read about how he’s lying and manipulating the health data and White House / CDC guidance to mislead Arizona into a new epidemic crisis:

Proof Ducey’s Lying: Arizona’s NOT Ready to Re-Open, posted May 22nd.

Governor Ducey Continues to Lie About Arizona’s COVID-19 Status, posted May 29th.

Ducey Stays on Course for Re-Opening, Despite COVID-19 Resurgence, posted June 4th

 

 

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