Brooke Army Medical Center treating civilian COVID-19 patients through ECMO program

BAMC is taking more trauma patients to ensure its trauma response remains unaffected by the pandemic.

SAN ANTONIO – Brooke Army Medical Center, known as a Level 1 Trauma Center, is helping San Antonio in its fight against COVID-19 with its Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) program.

The medical procedure is used as an alternative to putting someone on a ventilator, according to BAMC.

“We have doubled our capacity for ECMO over the last couple of weeks to greater support the city because it’s a specialized treatment,” said Col. Patrick Osborn, deputy commander for surgical services at Brooke Army Medical Center.

Osborn said BAMC is currently treating five civilian COVID-19 patients through their ECMO program, as of yet.

“As those people get better and come off the machine, then we will take more,” Osborn said.

So how does BAMC identify civilian COVID-19 patients for this program?

“We have our own separate ECMO contact line that the hospitals in the area know and they contact us directly through that,” Osborn said.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in the county, local leaders have asked for more help from BAMC as hospitals get closer to capacity.

“That would help us a great deal if they would start taking start taking patients,” said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.

Ultimately though, Osborn said it’s out of their control.

“Those decisions are made way outside this building by federal entities and basically, we are on the receiving end. We have to be ready for whatever mission we are given by our military chain of command or civilian chain of command. And those decisions we have really no control over,” Osborn said.

In the meantime, BAMC said they are taking on additional trauma patients to ensure the region’s trauma response remains unaffected by the pandemic.

“We’ve taken more and more as other hospitals in town have had more COVID to deal with,” Osborn said.

Osborn said San Antonians must do their part to continue to stop the spread of COVID-19, which includes following the current health guidelines in place. Residents are urged to wear face masks, social distance and stay home when possible.

“The number of critically ill patients, the number of patients on ECMO, the number of patients on ventilators in ICU use, that continues to rise,” Osborn said.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, there are 20,212 COVID-19 cases in the military, 425 people are hospitalized and three have died.

RELATED: Death toll rises, hospitalizations decline in Bexar County, San Antonio

About the Authors:

Tiffany Huertas is known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.