Hank Investigates: Animal hospitals loaning ventilators to help people with COVID-19

BOSTON (WHDH) -

One of the biggest crises during this coronavirus pandemic is the tragic shortage of medical supplies and ventilators. But Hank Phillippi Ryan found veterinarians and animal hospitals are now answering the calls for help.

Ventilators have helped save animal’s lives at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, but they’re now saving human lives at Tufts Medical Center.

The vet school recently donated the center four ventilators, and three have already been put in use. 

 “So animal ventilators work on humans?” Hank asked.

 “The ventilators we use in our intensive care units are human ventilators. We just use them on animals but they are the same equipment,” Dr. Alastair Cribb, Dean of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University said. 

Angell Animal Medical Center tells us one of their ventilators is now on loan to Mount Auburn Hospital.  

The machines, used by patients unable to breathe on their own, are among the most crucial tools available to doctors in the fight against COVID-19.

“The ventilators come with a set of tubes that are disposable. So before they used on people obviously. You don’t reuse the tubes that are used on a patient, you replace them with new tubes that are then used on human patients,” Cribb said. 

The Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association’s website says: “Hospitals are trying to create a list of backup supplies, including ventilators if needed” with a link for vet clinics to sign up if they have one to share. 

“Ventilators are used in vet medicine generally by specialty emergency clinics and critical care facilities for similar reasons because the animal needs help breathing. “Specialty clinics around the country have been ponying up letting people know we have this ventilator available if you need it we are happy to bring it to you,” said Dr. Lori Teller from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

And we found in Massachusetts and across the country vets are saying it’s all part of their role to protect the public health.

 “We want to do as much as we can,” Cribb said. 

 And it’s not just ventilators: Tufts and Angell and other vet clinics are also sending also sent gowns, gloves, and masks to local hospitals.

The American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care says nationally 217 animal hospitals have offered human hospitals a total of 250 ventilators. At least 25 ventilators have been loaned so far, the majority are in the Northeast.

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