A unique partnership is credited with saving dozens of lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
UC San Diego Health said a consortium that included itself, Sharp HealthCare, Scripps Health, and Rady Children’s Hospital saved at least 97 lives in 2020 and 2021.
Dr. Mazen Odish said the usual competitors put aside business and began sharing precious equipment to make sure needs were met for patients.
“It’s patients first,” said Odish. “And I think all three health systems care about our patients first. We care about the communities that we service.”
They called it the ECMO Consortium. ECMO is an acronym for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.
“ECMO is a limited resource. We only have so many machines,” Odish said.
The ECMO is basically an external heart and lung that oxygenates a patient’s blood and pumps it back into their body. Odish said it gives the patient’s body a chance to heal after being ravaged while being on the ventilator.
“It pretty much saved my life,” said Dr. Jay Buenaflor.
Buenaflor contracted COVID-19 in 2020 and was placed on a ventilator at UC San Diego Health.
“He was one of the sickest patients we’ve had,” said Odish, a pulmonologist. “I would love to say he’s my patient. I helped take care of him, but again, it’s that massive team that we have that helps take care of all these patients.”
A UC San Diego Health spokeswoman said the partnership is ramping up again as the Delta variant increases the number of patients admitted to the hospitals.
Coronavirus in San Diego County
“Right now, this pandemic is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said Odish who strongly encouraged people to get vaccinated.