CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The CDC says 20-30% of hospitalized patients who have COVID-19 and pneumonia have to go into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for help breathing.
Ventilators are a medical device that act as a mechanical means of getting air into the lungs when a patient's lungs don't have the strength to breathe on their own, explained Dr. Robert Oliverio, an Internist at Roper St. Francis.
He said ventilators, sometimes also called respirators, essentially take over for the weak muscles and gets air in and out of the lungs.
DHEC is tracking how many ventilators hospitals have on hand and how many they're using right now.
DHEC posted the results of a survey that showed there are at least 1,265 ventilators at our South Carolina hospitals.
At the time of the survey this week, 222 were being used, which is about 18%.
Not every hospital responded to the survey, but of those that did, four hospitals reported having 0 ventilators.
Those were Allendale County hospital in Fairfax, two campuses of McLeod Health in Darlington, and Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville.
Three hospitals were using more than half of ventilators they have on hand.
Those were Kershaw Health in Camden (using 6 of 8), McLeod Health in Florence (using 34 of 50) and Hilton Head Hospital (using 8 of 13).
The other 45 hospitals that responded are using fewer than half of the ventilators they have in stock.
That includes Roper, Trident and several regional MUSC campuses that responded.
MUSC's main campus downtown was not listed as a respondent to the survey.
We asked for the hospital's ventilator numbers Friday and were told they'd be released in a news update today.
Dr. Oliverio said it's essential to slow the spread of COVID-19 so we don't run out of medical supplies like ventilators.
"If patients get really really sick really quickly, and a lot of patients get sick, you overrun the capacity for the health system and that's when you run out of ventilators, when a lot of people get sick. That's what the whole mitigation strategy is all about. That's why mayors are telling you to stay home. Stay away from other people," Dr. Oliverio said.
Hospitals in Charleston County has the third highest number of ventilators total (148) and are using the third highest number of ventilators (27).
Williamsburg Regional Hospital was not listed as a respondent to the survey, but hospital leaders tells us they has five ventilators. One is a mobile unit that they say is not as reliable as the others, so they are asking the state for two more.
MUSC released the following statement:
We monitor ventilator use across our system and are pulling in more capacity in real-time. The exact number continues to be a moving target as we double-check current equipment, receive new equipment and pursue new supply chain pathways in the private industry as well as through state and national assistance efforts. We hope to provide more detail in the coming week as the number stabilizes.
MUSC Health asks that media and the community please take into account that the ability to care for patients who need ventilators involves a number of variables; our current stock is considered adequate as we prepare for a possible surge in hospitalized COVID-19 patient.