Veterinary hospitals and colleges and even zoos around the country are offering critically needed ventilators to hospitals struggling to treat coronavirus patients.
Hospitals in areas hard-hit by the outbreak face dire shortages as the number of cases of COVID-19 quickly climb. As resources are stretched thin, loans of the breathing machines could save hundreds of lives.
Although the ventilators were used to treat animals, several veterinary specialists and hospital officials told HuffPost it’s the same equipment used for humans.
“What was most encouraging regarding the ventilators we received was they are the same ventilator that Tufts Medical Center uses on our human patients. This was a clear benefit as it resulted in no additional time required to train our respiratory therapists,” said Leslie Lussier, director of respiratory care at the hospital.
She said that these machines were well maintained, checked for safety and thoroughly cleaned according to infection control standards, and are ready for use on patients with COVID-19.
The Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University operates Tufts VETS and the Foster Hospital for Small Animals, and both facilities donated two ventilators to the medical care center. Experts at the facility told HuffPost in a statement that for now they could rely on anesthesia ventilators that could provide breathing support to animals for shorter times.
In the current U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, New York City, the number of confirmed cases topped 20,000 Wednesday and 280 people had died of COVID-19. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the state needed thousands more ventilators to be prepared for the “apex” of the caseload, which his team predicted to be in two to three weeks.
New York’s Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has offered its ventilators to local health departments in anticipation of the state’s growing crisis.
A spokesperson for the veterinary school told HuffPost they have donated more than 1,000 N95 respirator masks, as well as swabs and other supplies, and are prepping three ventilators and 19 anesthesia machines to send to the Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca as needed.
These animal hospitals are among 190 plus organizations in more than 30 states that had pitched in by Wednesday. Others that had offered their resources include the Phoenix Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, the Detroit Zoological Society and dozens of local and university clinics.
Dr. Beth Davidow, president-elect of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, posted a callout last week to veterinarians around the country whose workplaces might have ventilators they could share.
She established a centralized database for potential donors to list the resources they have available on a Google spreadsheet. By Wednesday, nearly 250 ventilators had been listed. At least seven facilities had already loaned the machines out, and more than 30 others had promised their ventilators to local hospitals if needed, Davidow said in an email.
The spreadsheet was shared with the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association so hospitals could identify potential donors.
An associate professor of emergency and critical care at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Daniel Fletcher, said he was “very moved” by the willingness of his colleagues to share the machines, which animals, too, require.
Though many clinics are moving to emergency-only services in a bid to preserve medical supplies, it does still mean that some animals may not get treatment they require to survive. Fletcher said that it was a difficult decision to part with the equipment but a necessary one that will save lives.
“We’re making a much less difficult choice than the physicians in Italy who’ve had to make the decision between multiple people.”
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