What’s it like for an HME RT during the pandemic?

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Friday, April 24, 2020

Editor’s note: To hear Patricia DeMaida on the HME News in 10 podcast, click here.

WATERBURY, Conn. – Respiratory therapist Patricia DeMaida has spent her entire career taking care of patients, both in the hospital and in the home, but she’s never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic, she says.

“The hospitals are overwhelmed,” said DeMaida, sales and clinical manager for Health Complex Medical in Waterbury, Conn, just outside of New York City, which has emerged as an epicenter of the disease. “There’s not enough equipment and there’s not enough workers.”

DeMaida spoke with HME News recently about what it’s like working the front lines of a public health emergency.

HME News: What is the situation like where you are?

Patti DeMaida: We’re seeing (COVID-19) spread from New York City and into Connecticut here. They say our cases are coming down but now we are starting to see more employees and health care workers starting to test positive. We are seeing about 80% of the hospital admissions being discharged home, which is really good. The majority (of patients) are going home on oxygen, if not some other DME.

HME: What do you want people to know about how things are on the front lines right now?

DeMaida: How overloaded these hospitals are and how important it is to respect social distancing to prevent the spread as much as we can. The hospitals are overwhelmed—they’re running out of beds. There’s not enough equipment and there’s not enough workers. Sleep techs and pulmonary rehab therapists are all being pulled to be on the front line in hospitals for testing, treating and managing these patients.

HME: What is the biggest need you have right now to do your job?

DeMaida: We are running into a lack of equipment, both DME and PPE. The PPE is so important to protect our delivery drivers who are going into homes to set up these patients that are COVID-positive and there are also family members in the home. That’s a challenge right now.

HME: How do you hope the pandemic changes how respiratory products and services are covered in the future?

DeMaida: I hope it can come to light the need and the amount of people we maintain in the home with chronic respiratory diseases. There’s no code for an RT to go into the home to provide education and these are the patients we want to keep at home. We can cut costs by keeping them at home.