Health workers fear shortage of PPE due to large increase in coronaviruses

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Health care workers faced a severe shortage of masks, gowns and other protective equipment at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and they fear it will happen again now.Why is it important: Hospitals, nursing homes and medical clinics need this equipment to protect themselves and avoid spreading the infection. Supplies are already stretched and will likely shrink as the coronavirus and flu season converges in the fall.

What they say: Health workers sound the alarm that they must reuse masks and other supplies and fear that their grievances will go unnoticed again.

  • Maria Serda, a respiratory therapist at an HCA Healthcare hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, said that although cases and hospitalizations were increasing in the state, staff were limited to one N95 mask per day and gowns were being monitored now as well.
  • “I just want to make sure that I don’t get sick, or that my colleagues don’t get sick,” said Serda.

The progress: Many medical providers said their supplies of masks, face masks, test supplies and other equipment were “adequate” – a few steps better than spring, when workers at some facilities had to make dresses from garbage bags.

Yes, but: “The concerns about supply chains have not been resolved,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association.

  • “Supply is still coming, but not enough to keep up with demand,” an industry official told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform earlier this month.

It’s much worse for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that “request PPE,” an official with the American Health Care Association told Axios.

  • Over 40% of coronavirus deaths in the United States are related to nursing homes.
  • PPE and disinfectants “are simply not available from the usual sources used by our doctors,” warned the American Medical Association in June.

At the end of the line: Even Vice President Mike Pence, who painted a rosy picture of the country’s response to coronaviruses, acknowledged some supply issues.

  • “We encourage healthcare workers to start now to use some of the best practices we have learned from other parts of the country to preserve and reuse PPE supplies,” he said last week.

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