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Life-saving medical supplies and equipment have become scarce around the globe. There are shortages of personal protective equipment, like medical gowns and facemasks, and ventilators, which pump oxygen into the lungs of patients who are unable to breathe on their own. The medical supplies are critical to treating those with coronavirus patients and limiting the spread of the disease. And that's why some wealthy people are trying to buy their own so they can set up makeshift clinics at home.
Medical equipment maker Triton Electronics Systems said 7 percent of the company’s demand for ventilators, which can cost more than $25,000 each, come from private individuals, and the company has already sold out through October, the Wall Street Journal reported. (Triton Electronics Systems did not immediately return a request for comment).
As a result of the increased demand, the price of ventilators has doubled. Meanwhile, masks are selling for 10 times their original prices as suppliers take advantage of the dire need. Smaller ventilators that were selling for $11,000 to $14,000 are now going for $20,000 to $30,000, Christian Mitchell, deputy governor in Illinois told the Associated Press. Larger models that were priced at $45,000 now cost $20,000 more, according to the AP.
A number of U.S.-based medical equipment companies are starting to decline requests from wealthy individuals and are instead prioritizing hospitals in need. Ventec Life System, a ventilator supplier based in Seattle, which has been fielding requests from more than 65 countries, U.S. states, will no longer take individual requests.
"We're not selling to individuals, we're selling to hospital systems and governments who are on the front-lines of response where demand is right now," Chris Brooks, chief strategy officer at Ventec Life System told FOX Business last month. “This is not a consumer item. We can train folks quickly on them, but it’s not something that is out to the highest bidder."
The National Institute of Health estimates there are slightly more than 62,000 ventilators in the United States, and demand for assisted ventilation in hospitals could increase by 25 percent, according to a report by Johns Hopkins University.
Governors in states with short supplies of ventilators, gloves and other personal protective equipment are desperately seeking out medical equipment with the federal stockpile diminishes with the Trump administration limiting access to what remains. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker turned to NFL owner Robert Kraft to send this Patriots team plane to China to retrieve more than a million medical masks, while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order to mandate that private hospitals redistribute ventilators to healthcare facilities that need them most.
To increase the supplies for hospitals across the U.S. facing shortages, Ventec Life Systems teamed up with auto company General Motors and StopTheSpread.org, a private-sector response to COVID-19, to increase its production of respiratory care products.
With social distancing mandates, telehealth has become the new normal for patients globally seeking medical attention. And while there is no cure for the coronavirus, wealthy Americans are seeking out preventive measures like early testing and on-demand medical treatment.
Former White House doctor Connie Mariano told the Wall Street Journal demand for her “concierge doctor” service increased, with her receiving nearly 100 email requests a day, twice the amount she usually gets when there isn’t a health crisis. Marino charges $15,000-a-year for her “concierge doctor” service allowing patients to ask for medical advice, get virtual checkups at any time, get testing or in more severe cases, schedule hospital visits. (Mariano did not return a Fox Business request for comment).
And in Malibu, Calif. CURE Daily charges its clientele of mostly athletes, business leaders and celebrities up to $10,00 a month for unlimited consultation, including testing, according to The Journal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.