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Aussie Vets Ready To Donate Ventilators To Help With Coronavirus Response

Australia's largest pet care company has offered to donate all of its human-grade ventilators, as hospitals prepare for more COVID-19 cases.

Greencross Vets runs a network of 167 general practice vet clinics and emergency and referral hospitals across the country, along with 200 Petbarn retail stores.

The company has offered to donate the 25 human critical care ventilators it has available to the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) should they be needed to help with the COVID-19 response.

"We are in a critical situation, and we would be willing and able to deploy those ventilators if we were requested to do so," Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Magdoline Awad told 10 daily.

Greencross Vets has offered to donate all its human-grade ventilators to help with the COVID-19 response. Image: Supplied

Australia now has over 4,093 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16 people have died from the new virus. As of Monday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said 55 people are in Intensive Care Units.

"[There is] some increase in intensive care but we still have a lot of capacity in our intensive care units for those people who need that extra care," he said at a press conference.

Awad said she understands the stress COVID-19 has put on the country's healthcare system, and that ventilators are critical in treating those with severe respiratory compromise.

“As a business, we are committed to doing all we can to help those on the front line in the event hospitals require extra support," she said.

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Awad said the human critical care ventilators are the same as those used in hospitals, and are "easily accessible" from Greencross' emergency and critical care hospitals across the country.

"At the moment, there is a lesser need for ventilators in vet practices, as it's not the season for tick bites and paralysis when we would normally need them," she said.

"It would be a matter of us being contacted, and then us cleaning them and  handing over those machines to whichever hospitals require it."

It's a support avenue that started overseas, as veterinarians considered the situation in Italy -- where hospitals were overrun with patients requiring intensive care -- and how they could help.

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Last week, The Australian Veterinary Board Council (AVBC) called on specialist facilities and university-based vet hospitals across the country to make their equipment available.

AVBC Executive Director Dr Julie Strous said  the response was “overwhelmingly positive.”

“Vets will do everything possible to provide our medical profession with extra equipment to cope with the increase in critical patients,” Strous said.

“Many ventilator models used by vets are exactly the same as the machines used in human hospitals, which means the intensivists are already familiar with their use. They just need to know where to find them.

"Having the vet ventilator inventory ready to go means the doctors are well-prepared should the need arise."

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Awad hopes their services aren't needed -- but she isn't convinced.

"It would be fantastic to think we wouldn’t have to use them and we would manage it with what we have now," she said.

But from what we’ve seen overseas, we haven’t reached capacity, and if we ever had to be in that situation, we would help.

Meanwhile, vets are facing a critical time of their own.

Greencross Vets has introduced several social distancing measures, such as offering telehealth consults or drop-and-go appointments at clinics.

"We are trying to make sure people's pets can still be seen while limiting face-to-face contact," Awad said.

"It does take longer, but most clients are just grateful we're open and are able to see their pets safely."

Contact the author: ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au