Across the country, hospitals and health care organizations have seen shortages of ventilators, face masks and other personal protective equipment, also called PPE, as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic strains medical resources.

Since Weber State University is conducting classes in a remote format the rest of the school year, all of the ventilators and PPE that students and instructors normally use in classroom and lab settings were going to sit around and collect dust.

Kris Bouwhuis, the nursing simulation operations manager for Weber State’s Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing, saw 15 ventilators in her laboratory and made a phone call.

“I contacted the respiratory director over at (McKay-Dee Hospital) and I said, ‘Hey, we have these ventilators. Here are the types we have. Could we use them again?” she said.

Over the past few days, Weber State’s Department of Respiratory Therapy and Annie Taylor Dee School of Nursing — both part of the Dumke College of Health Professions — have donated and delivered medical supplies to McKay-Dee, Midtown Community Health Center and Ogden Clinic.

The donations are to help those facilities prepare for an expected future surge in COVID-19 patients.

A total of 15 ventilators were loaned to McKay-Dee. Hospital representatives picked up 10 ventilators from WSU on Friday and five more on Monday.

Some of the ventilators were originally donated to Weber State by McKay-Dee Hospital, according to Susan Thornock, a professor and the chair of Weber State’s nursing school.

On Tuesday, a handful of people at Weber State loaded up cars with medical supplies that were dropped off at Midtown Community Health and Ogden Clinic.

The donations included 65 pairs of eye goggles, 310 fluid resistant gowns, 200 N95 masks, 800 patient masks, 30 boxes of gloves and 200 head covers, along with bottles of hand sanitizer, boxes of disinfectant wipes and mask/eye shields.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of the community as we know them. So for instance, McKay has reached out to me a couple times, like, ‘Do you have N95 masks?’ and so on,” Thornock said.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is extremely contagious and has prompted the heightened need for PPE such as N95 masks, which are specially manufactured to prevent person-to-person transmission of the microscopic COVID-19 particles.

Health care workers are one of the groups at highest risk of getting the disease since they have high interaction with COVID-19 patients.

“This has been a great collaborative effort, and it’s been our privilege to at least do something for our community. The people on the front line are definitely heroes,” Thornock said.

Ventilators are normally used for patients who can’t breathe on their own or for patients who go under anesthesia for surgery.

Ventilators have been in high demand during the pandemic because COVID-19 causes breathing problems that can be so severe that critically ill patients need a ventilator in order to survive.

Under normal circumstances, those 15 ventilators are used by the Department of Respiratory Therapy as practice and training equipment for students. The ventilators are being tested and revamped so they can be used on patients.

“I am continually impressed with their engagement in the community and the work they do to help everyone be healthier and better educated,” McKay-Dee Hospital Administrator Mike Clark said in an emailed statement provided to the Standard-Examiner. “The ventilators (are) just another example where they saw a need and addressed it. Weber State’s leadership is dedicated to Ogden and the best partner we could ask for. We are so grateful for their generosity and insight to assist us in helping our community.”

Attempts to reach the Midtown Community Health Center were unsuccessful Tuesday.

The Weber-Morgan Health Department announced the area’s first COVID-19 death Tuesday, the fifth death in Utah linked to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Current data indicates that the peak of COVID-19 infections and deaths is yet to come, putting the onus on health care facilities and local leaders to make sure everyone is as prepared as possible when the peak does come, which some projections estimate could happen in two or three weeks.

Weber State’s Bouwhuis hopes that other health fields, which may be closed for the time being, can donate supplies in the meantime since the nationwide mass production of ventilators and PPE isn’t expected to trickle down to health facilities for at least a number of weeks.

As the old saying goes, people are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best in this situation.

“Hopefully we won’t need to use these ventilators, and hopefully we won’t need to use these extra supplies,” Bouwhuis said.

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