Texas State's Department of Respiratory Care, part of the College of Health Professions in Round Rock, uses 14 ventilators used to train respiratory therapists.
Now that the university's courses have been moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic, the faculty has decided that idle ventilators can be loaned to the local community.
“I talked to the faculty, and we decided if there was a need we could help with, we were open to that. The ventilators are a loan, but we won’t need them for the students until well into the summer session,” said Gregg Marshall, chair of the university's department of respiratory care. “Professor Nick Henry is working on getting them ready. We’re emptying everything out of the lab, trying to get the ventilators out there where they can make a difference.”
The university loaned four ventilators to Ascension Seton Williamson in Round Rock and is planning on loaning two to Dell Seton Medical Center in Austin. St. David’s HealthCare has also discussed the possibility of acquiring units.
Severe cases of COVID-19 require ventilators to assist with breathing, as patients can suffer from respiratory failure. A single ventilator can cost between $30,000 to $40,000, limiting the number of ventilators hospitals have available. This has led to critical shortages in states such as New York and Washington.
Ventilators are also complicated to operate, and there is a shortage of qualified respiratory therapists, the university said.
“Last week, [Gov. Greg Abbott] relaxed the Nurse Practice Act to allow senior nursing students to go uncredentialed — before they take their board exams — into the workforce to help, because of the manpower shortage,” Marshall said. “What it’s allowing them to do is enter the workforce early."
Marshall said that they have been reaching out to the governor to ask for a similar rule change in regard to respiratory therapists.
“A rule change like this would allow them to immediately go to the workplace and be part of the workforce. It would be a huge, quick entrance of specialists into the medical system, which is what we need right now to fight the coronavirus. We’re very, very behind," he said.
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