Manitoulin Health Centre takes delivery of four new portable ventilators

Debbie Graham, manager of corporate services for the Manitoulin Health Centre, left, and M’Chigeeng Ogimaa-kwe Linda Debassige flank one of the four new ventilators that arrived last week.

MANITOULIN – Residents of Manitoulin Island worked together this past spring under the first wave of COVID-19 to fundraise for additional ventilators for Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC); those units finally arrived at the Island hospitals in late August and will be readied for service in the coming weeks.

“We want the community to know how grateful we are for all of the donations. We’re grateful to Chief (Linda) Debassige (of M’Chigeeng) for kickstarting the campaign and we were shocked at the amount of support we received from the Manitoulin community as well as seasonal visitors,” said Paula Fields, vice-president of clinical support services and chief nursing officer at MHC.

The campaign’s goal was initially $80,000, enough to cover four new LTV-1200 portable ventilator units, but the Island fundraising machine was in full effect and the fundraising total reached nearly $200,000.

The surplus funds will go toward other COVID-19-related efforts, including two ultraviolet (UV) sterilizer tower pairs to sanitize rooms and PPE, such as N95 respirator masks that were in short supply earlier this year. The hospital has saved its used N95 masks and stored them in case they must be sterilized and reused.

LTV-1200 ventilators are established units that can be used for short-term in-hospital patients as well as during patient transport. MHC’s two existing ventilators are older-style LTV-1200s; the new devices have more digital settings for better control.

“The great thing about that is we can put them right into service with no additional physician or nurse training; they’re very accustomed to using the vents. That’s always a big concern when you introduce a new, complex piece of equipment,” said Ms. Fields.

The ventilators are not as sophisticated as stationary machines. When a patient is on an LTV-1200, a medical expert has to monitor their condition and regularly adjust the machine as required. Stationary ventilators often handle those processes automatically so the portable units work best for intubations of a few weeks or shorter.

“The great thing about these is that you can set them up to assist someone to breathe in a hospital, and if you can’t get them transferred right away they can be maintained for a long time on these vents. However, if they need transport right away, it has a strap and you can put it on your shoulder and walk beside the patient in a stretcher. They’re that easy to transport,” said Ms. Fields.

LTV-1200 units have a roughly 10-year service life. MHC’s existing units are nearing that age and will be transitioned into backup units. The new machines will be ready for service when a Health Sciences North biomed technician makes their next monthly visit to the site to certify that the ventilators are fit for use.

When first ordered, the medical equipment supplier offered a four-week turnaround time. The timeline stretched to three months because other sites ranked higher on the priority list than MHC, given its smaller service area and minimal caseload.

MHC’s corporate services manager Debbie Graham was the driving force behind the order and played a key role in ensuring MHC remained high on the list.

“Debbie was very persistent with the company, insisting we needed the vents, and she followed up with them weekly. We wouldn’t have even had them through the door right now if not for Debbie’s efforts,” said Ms. Fields.

She added that the crowdfunded ventilators will allow the hospital to focus its capital expenditures on other areas, such as getting newer equipment for the emergency department expansion and renovation at the Mindemoya site.

“It’s very reassuring to have these (ventilators) here. There’s been instances, with our increased volumes over the summer, when we could have used more than one vent. Even without COVID, knowing the equipment is here and available is very reassuring,” said Ms. Fields.