Mechanical Ventilation Supply and Options for the COVID-19 Pandemic: Leveraging All Available Resources for a Limited Resource in a Crisis

The novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has exposed critical supply shortages both in the United States and worldwide including those in ICU and hospital bed supply, hospital staff, and mechanical ventilators. Many of those critically ill have required days to weeks of supportive mechanical invasive ventilation (MV) as part of their treatment. Previous estimates set the US availability of mechanical ventilators at approximately 62,000 full-featured ventilators, with 98,000 non-full featured devices (including non-invasive devices). Given the limited availability of this resource both in US and in low- and middle-income countries, we provide a framework to approach the shortage of MV resources. Here we discuss evidence and possibilities to reduce overall MV needs, strategies to maximize the availability of MV devices designed for invasive ventilation, the literature underlying methods to create and fashion new sources of potential ventilation that are available to hospitals and front-line providers, and discuss the staffing needs necessary to support MV efforts. The pandemic has already pushed cities like New York and Boston well beyond previous ICU capacity in its first wave. As hotspots continue to develop around the country and the globe, it is evident that issues may arise ahead regarding the efficient and equitable use of resources. This unique challenge may continue to stretch resources and require care beyond previously set capacities and boundaries. The approaches presented here provide a review of the known evidence and strategies for those at the front-line facing this challenge.

Management of neuroblastoma in limited-resource settings

Neuroblastoma (NB) is a heterogeneous disease with variable outcomes among countries. Little is known about NB in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The aim of this review was to evaluate regional management protocols and challenges in treating NB in paediatric oncology units in LMICs compared to high-income countries (HICs).

PubMed, Global Health, Embase, SciELO, African Index Medicus and Google Scholar were searched for publications with keywords pertaining to NB, LMICs and outcomes. Only English language manuscripts and abstracts were included. A descriptive review was done, and tables illustrating the findings were constructed.

Limited information beyond single-institution experiences regarding NB outcomes in LMICs was available. The disease characteristics varied among countries for the following variables: sex, age at presentation, MYCN amplification, stage and outcome. LMICs were found to be burdened with a higher percentage of stage 4 and high-risk NB compared to HICs. Implementation of evidence-based treatment protocols was still a barrier to care. Many socioeconomic variables also influenced the diagnosis, management and follow-up of patients with NB.

Patients presented at a later age with more advanced disease in LMICs. Management was limited by the lack of resources and genetic studies for improved NB classification. Further research is needed to develop modified diagnostic and treatment protocols for LMICs in the face of limited resources.

Sword of Damocles: application of the ethical principles of resource allocation to essential cancer surgery patients requiring beds in limited supply during the COVID-19 pandemic

As a surge of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) patients strains the health care systems, shortages of health care professionals and life-saving equipment such as ventilators are forcing hospitals to make difficult decisions [1, 2]. It is critical that these health care systems consider whether non-essential surgical procedures can be delayed to ration medical equipment and interventions. Theatre list shortages occur for many reasons, including lack of beds, lack of ventilators, lack of anaesthetic staff, lack of surgical staff, lack of nursing staff and material shortages (e.g. personal protective equipment). Contributing to resource scarcity is the prolonged intubation many COVID-19 patients require as they recover from pneumonia, often two to three weeks, with several hours spent in the prone position and then, typically, a very slow weaning. During shortages, health care systems must determine how to fairly distribute these scarce resources to patients. Unfortunately, no single distribution framework applies to all shortages. However, general allocation principles for scarce health care resources, grounded in distributive justice and utility, can be applied, although particular rules will differ depending on the circumstances.