Local animal hospitals have ventilators to share — and they’re stepping up to help out amid coronavirus pandemic

Resources are being shared throughout the health care system to meet demand.

A canine patient on Angell's ventilator.
A canine patient on Angell's dialysis unit, which may be used by human hospitals, if needed. –MSPCA-Angell

Massachusetts hospitals are in need of resources to fight the growing coronavirus pandemic — and they’re getting some help from their partners-in-scrubs at facilities that usually cater to four-legged patients.

At the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center, veterinarians have offered up their ventilator and dialysis unit to local hospitals, should the need arise in an anticipated COVID-19 patient surge.

Senior staff veterinarian Dr. Virginia Sinott-Stutzman says the hospital is ready to help.

“I think Massachusetts has done a pretty darn good job, so at least so far, we’ve been lucky,” Sinnott-Stutzman, chair of the Infection Control Committee, told Boston.com. “But, next week it could be different.”

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Hospitals around the state are working quickly to obtain more of the crucial equipment needed to fight the respiratory virus. It’s unclear how many ventilators there currently are across the commonwealth, though one study puts the number at at least 1,400, according to The Boston Globe.

Meanwhile, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers say if the coronavirus hits 20 percent of the population here, over 24,000 people would need a ventilator at some point during their treatment, the newspaper reports.

Sinnott-Stutzman said the Angell Animal Medical Center ventilator is a little older than others, but works fine.

“Obviously in a crisis, if it’s your family member, you would rather them have a ventilator than no ventilator at all,” she said.

Adding to already unprecedented times, the animal hospital has never pooled its resources with the medical community like this before.

Sinott-Stutzman said the move very much follows “One Health” —  the approach to health care that recognizes the intersectionality of human and animal health.

“We are moving towards more of ‘One Health’ mindset, which I love,” she said.

On Monday, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University announced it sent all four of its ventilators to Tufts Medical Center to treat human patients.

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“We are prepared to donate additional supplies and equipment, such as specialized dialysis equipment for renal failure, as needed and as we are able,” the hospital said in a Facebook post.

In true One Health fashion, Cummings Veterinary Medical Center has sent all four of our mechanical ventilators—two each…

Posted by Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University on Monday, March 23, 2020

Working to fulfill its part in curbing the spread of the virus, Angell is operating exclusively by telephone, Sinnott-Stutzman said. Clients can still bring their pets in — albeit for non-elective procedures — but must remain outside or stay at home while their animals are being cared for, she said.

“Part of that is resource management,” she said. “We only have so many masks for surgery and gowns for surgery, so we’re trying to make sure those last as long as the shortage persists.”

MSPCA volunteers are sewing away to make masks to feed the supply, so the hospital doesn’t have to rely on disposable ones, according to Sinnott-Stutzman.

And for those wondering about patients at Angell having to go without a ventilator, don’t worry.

“We really wouldn’t see a huge decrease in care. … We have kind of a playbook of options,” Sinott-Stutzman said.


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