April 7, 2020, KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Oregon Institute of Technology “Oregon Tech,” Sky Lakes Medical Center and Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center today announced a joint partnership to deploy additional ventilators as the COVID-19 public health crises develops.

As a highly focused university that uses state-of-the-art machinery and equipment within its degree programs, Oregon Tech has a unique opportunity to partner with surrounding medical facilities by providing them lifesaving equipment as patient demand rises.

Sky Lakes and Asante are in ongoing efforts to develop additional medical capacity as the COVID-19 pandemic expands. As is being seen nationally, access to ventilators is a key bottleneck to saving lives as patients with COVID-19 display respiratory problems. At this time, Sky Lakes and Asante have enough ventilators to meet demand, and both are preparing for what could happen if the number of people with COVID-19 continues to rise.

“Medical facilities usually only have a set number of ventilators for normal operations, but these are not normal times,” explained Paul Stewart, president and chief executive officer of Sky Lakes. “If all ventilators are already being used, should there be a major outbreak, then any additional patients in need of a ventilator would need to be emergency transferred to a facility that has the proper equipment, if they are available. If all ventilators are in use throughout the region, then, tragically, patients wouldn’t get the care they need to survive respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.”

Stewart added that providing additional capacity with the ventilators is another example of a long-time partnership and ongoing resource sharing between the two institutions. “All of us at Sky Lakes are grateful for Oregon Tech and the university’s generous assistance,” said Stewart.

“This is a critical period during the pandemic when healthcare facilities need to be prepared well in advance of the anticipated surge of patients,” said Scott Kelly, president and CEO of Asante. “Our longstanding partnership with Oregon Tech and the ventilators it is making available helps ensure the people in the communities we serve will have life-saving technology available when they need it most.”

President Nagi Naganathan said, “Oregon Tech, as a professionally focused polytechnic university, is looking at the many ways it can deploy its resources and expertise to lean into the developing public health crises across Oregon. One of the ways is by utilizing our faculty and student expertise in healthcare fields and deploying lifesaving equipment the university uses to train students on into hospitals as they are needed. Many thanks go to our entrepreneurial faculty and their longstanding partners in regional hospitals like Sky Lakes and Asante Rogue Regional who surfaced these ideas and have run with them.”

Jeff Pardy, department chair of Oregon Tech’s Respiratory Care program, and Jason Tucker, Oregon Tech medical equipment technologist, identified 26 ventilators at Oregon Tech available for loan. “Oregon Tech prides itself on training our students on the same equipment they will use in their future workplaces,” said Pardy. “Oregon Tech’s focus on keeping state-of-the-art technology in the classroom is helping us meet the anticipated needs at these medical facilities as the ventilators we train on are the same ones they currently use. We will continue the educational mission of the university – and keep a steady pipeline of highly trained respiratory technicians into hospitals.”

Tucker shared: “Many of our current students and alumni are technicians at Sky Lakes and Asante’s hospitals, in addition to faculty who work there. We are glad to once again work together during this time.”

Tucker also added that Sky Lakes and Asante have welcomed faculty to their sites to deliver online training to students on the machines. “We will be able to present some of our classes remotely from the hospital, providing our students with an even more realistic learning environment,” he said. This ensures that students continue to receive the device-specific education they need, while still allowing the ventilators to be readily available at Sky Lakes and Asante.