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PRESS RELEASE: Veterinary equipment offered to ‘save human lives’ amid virus outbreak

Press statement from the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council, 24 March 2020

Australia’s veterinarians have offered extra equipment including mechanical ventilators to be used in hospitals across Australia to support the expected increase in numbers of critical patients needing life support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many veterinary specialist facilities and university-based veterinary hospitals have state-of-the-art facilities, including multiple human mechanical ventilators and these machines, once serviced by biomedical engineers, will be suitable for saving lives in our hospitals.

Vets have been working around the clock to provide an inventory of these vital life support machines to the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society (ANZICS) so that the hospital ICU teams know where they are located. This will allow hospitals to be prepared with extra serviced equipment should it be required, well ahead of time.

Dr Julie Strous, the Executive Director of the Australian Veterinary Boards Council (AVBC) states that:
“All veterinary specialist facilities and university-based vet hospitals across Australia have been contacted about their mechanical ventilator equipment and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Vets will do everything possible to provide our medical profession with extra equipment to cope with the increase in critical patients”.

“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. It’s better to have too many machines than not enough” explains Dr Strous.

Conditions including tick paralysis in dogs and cats, unique to Australia’s East Coast in NSW and Queensland, often need mechanical ventilation to treat, but given the recent advance in tick preventatives in pets, there is less need for these machines in the veterinary hospitals now and it is not peak tick season at the moment.

“Vets probably have more mechanical ventilators per head of population in Australia because the vets treat pet diseases unique to Australia such as tick paralysis and snake envenomation and this is an advantage as we can offer this equipment now to save human lives” says Dr Strous.

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Update 1 April 2020:

The Medical Journal of Australia has published a preprint article on the surge capacity of Australian ICUs:

Litton E, Bucci T, Chavan S, et al. Surge capacity of Australian intensive care units associated with COVID-19 admissions. Med J Aust 2020 [Preprint, 30 March 2020];