By Brian New

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As COVID-19 cases surge, North Texas hospitals could soon be faced with a shortage of life-saving equipment, such a ICU beds and ventilators.

People with disabilities fear if that happens, they may be pushed to the back of the line and even denied care.

On Thursday, Jan. 14, civil rights groups, along with the North Texas Mass Critical Care Guideline Task Force, announced the approval of revised crisis standard of care guidelines ensuring those with disabilities and older adults are not discriminated against in public health emergencies.

“Our lives are not disposable and we deserve medical treatment just as much as anyone else during a pandemic,” said Laura Halvorson, a former Mesquite school teacher with muscular dystrophy.

Halvorson, who uses a ventilator nearly 24 hours a day, said she was worried when she was recently hospitalized that her ventilator would be taken away from her and given to another patient.

The revised North Texas guidelines will prevent this from happening.

“The old guidelines did not explicitly say if someone walks in with a ventilator take it from them but it did not prohibit that action and that was a concern,” said Lisa Snead with Disability Rights Texas.

Disability Rights Texas was one of several organizations that filed federal civil rights complaints this summer against both the North Texas and South Texas crisis care triage guidelines.

Both local task forces have since revised their guidelines to include protections against discrimination.

Snead said she hopes this will lead to a statewide guidance.

“Without that, persons with disabilities and older adults in Texas may continue to find themselves subject to discriminatory rationing, placing their lives at risk. We hope that State leaders act soon to ensure all Texans receive equal access to medical care,” Snead said.

To see the North Texas Mass Critical Care Guidelines Task Force’s new guidelines, click here.

To see the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council’s new guidelines, click here.

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