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Indiana’s top doc refuses to say how many ventilators are available

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - As the novel coronavirus rampages across the country, thousands of patients with acute respiratory distress need breathing machines to keep them alive.

But in Indiana, it's nearly impossible to figure out how many of the life-saving machines are available.

Dr. Kris Box speaks during a televised briefing on Wednesday.

During Governor Eric Holcomb's televised briefing on Wednesday, the state's health commissioner, Dr. Kris Box, was asked about that by two reporters.

She refused to answer the question and cited a different reason each time.

When first asked about the number of ventilators in the state, Dr. Box cited "changing numbers."

"Because everybody is stepping up to the plate and pretty much trying to double their ICU capacity, I'm seeing those numbers increase as we go along -- and the ventilators that they are repurposing or getting from their surgery centers that are now shut down," she said.

Moments later, Box was again asked about the number of ventilators in Indiana. She then cited a statewide database containing those numbers.

"You know, EM Resource has information for hospital systems, for regions across the state and for the entire state. Honestly, they are putting these numbers, these individual hospitals and companies with the idea that these will be held confidential, so I'm respecting that."

EM Resource is a private database used by hospitals and other healthcare facilities to assess the use of hospital beds and other resources.

In Indiana, that information is being monitored by the State Department of Health, according to Dr. Box.

Other states, including New York, have made the number of ventilators public information.

"We've procured about 7,000 ventilators... We need, at a minimum, an additional 30,000 ventilators," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during a public briefing this week.

It's unclear why Indiana officials are not being more forthcoming as states report critical shortages.

WPTA Staff

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