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Great Falls College-MSU assists Benefis with ventilators as COVID cases surge

Posted at 2:35 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 19:50:39-04

Benefis Health System is getting some help combating COVID-19 thanks to a partnership with Great Falls College-MSU, which is loaning the hospital two ventilators from the school's respiratory therapy program.

"For us to be able to lend the equipment that we have, that we use here on campus to train our students for patient care, to the medical community for patient care in a crisis time like this is very fulfilling,” said Brian Cayko, the director of the college's program.

He explained, "In the spring, we loaned two of our mechanical ventilators, life support devices, to Benefis so they could get them up to patient care standards and have them in wait in case they needed to use them. Fortunately, we didn't see a huge spike in the spring so those ventilators came back to us for a few months. Now that cases are on the rise and the hospital is full of patients and they're utilizing all of their equipment, once again they reached out to us for those ventilators as well as some other life support ventilation devices."

While the two ventilators may not seem like much, Bill Carmichael - the hospital’s inpatient, senior services therapy, and neurodiagnostics services director - said they could make a big difference.

"They're not only complete critical care ventilators but they are of the same make and model that Benefis already uses within its regular fleet. So the respiratory therapists are really comfortable with them,” said Carmichael.

As of Tuesday, the hospital had a total of 33 ventilators.

Great Falls Clinic posted the following message on Facebook last Wednesday: "Today we are at 100% capacity. Although we do not have an ICU, we have four special care beds, all of which are full with COVID-19 patients. Benefis has reached 113% capacity. Benefis ICU is also full with 21 patients, 19 of those patients have COVID-19."

"I think it's important to be prepared,” said Carmichael.

Having the upgraded ventilators to use when they're no longer needed at the hospital could also help better prepare the college's respiratory therapy students for their careers - a win-win for everyone involved.

Carmichael said options are being explored in case more ventilators are needed, including getting ventilators from a rental service.