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Society of Critical Care Medicine Calls for Volunteers to South Dakota

Sasha Achilli/FRONTLINE (PBS)

The same medical society that issued a nationwide call for volunteers to New York in the early days of the pandemic is issuing a similar call for South Dakota.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine is the largest nonprofit medical organization focused on intensive care services. Dr. Lewis Kaplan is president of the society and a professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. He says the group has sent intensive care volunteers all across the country in response to hurricanes and other disasters. This year, the group is responding to COVID-19.

“We’ve done this in New York and New Orleans and places in Texas. And sometimes it’s not even people that are required but it’s supplies, occasionally ventilators or PPE,” he explains.

The acting CEO of the Pine Ridge IHS service unit initiated the call for volunteers. The IHS regional office has not yet responded to requests for an interview.

Dr. Kaplan says it’s up to the site requesting volunteers to manage logistics.

“Everything from transportation to food to shelter to your temporary license, how you get covered for your insurance—all that is why we need someone who’s in a fairly high level administrative space to be part and parcel of this volunteer process at the receiving site,” he says.

Dr. Kaplan says the society acts as a funnel for specialized volunteers.

“And then it’s the people on the ground, those that are overwhelmed that identify and know their needs. They decide where the volunteers go so they are put to best advantage.”

Dr. Kaplan says the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new attention to the group and all intensive care workers.

“In many ways the ICU is part and parcel of going to the hospital. Of course there’s an ICU and there’s somebody there to take care of you. Now people are thinking about who that person is, how they were trained, and what they know how to do.”

Interested volunteers can sign up through the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s website.