Flu epidemic could lead to rationing of ventilators
Maryland's attorney general has issued an opinion that found that the governor has the authority to ration life-saving ventilators if a flu epidemic ever hit Maryland.
Attorney general Brian Frosh found in December that the Catastrophic Health Emergencies Act of 2002 gives the governor the power to declare a public health emergency and hospitals would rely on criteria to allocate the resources, the Baltimore Sun reports.
The criteria don't exist yet, however, and it's unclear when they will be finished.
Delegate Terri Hill of Howard County, who requested the attorney general's opinion on the governor's powers, said there is a need for a state plan on the issue.
"It's better to draw up the criteria in advance, rather than have a reactionary response during an emergency," said Hill, who is also a physician. "You can make bad decisions in an emergency situation."
Various institutions including Johns Hopkins University have held public meetings to gather input should an epidemic arise that would require distributing ventilators. They plan to share their findings this year.
Alan C. Regenberg, director of outreach and research support at Hopkins' Berman Institute of Bioethics, says a moderate pandemic event could result in major mechanical ventilation shortages.
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene officials said they plan to continue funding the development of policies to allocate scarce resources such as ventilators.