How is Healthcare Handling the Shortage of PPE during COVID-19
It’s well-established that the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is highly contagious. Transmission rates are still growing exponentially in the U.S. and other first-world countries, leading to calls to “Flatten The Curve” before hospital infrastructure becomes totally overwhelmed. But even with concerted efforts to stay home and practice social distancing, front-line medical personnel still must face the virus daily. Worse, they’re facing it with a limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and looming shortages in the near term.
High transmission rates cause PPE needs
One of the most concerning facts about COVID-19 is its high rate of transmission. This fact alone makes healthcare workers’ jobs much riskier. PPE is absolutely necessary to keep nurses and doctors safe.
One of the crucial types of PPE needed is N95 masks — a secure type of mask that can filter up to 95 percent of small particles. Unfortunately, demand (and costs) for these masks skyrocketed once news of the outbreak spread around the globe. People everywhere rushed to stock up to protect themselves. This, coupled with interstate bidding on current supplies, has made it increasingly difficult for hospitals to get the masks they need.
Hospital personnel are not the only people who need these masks, either. Firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), paramedics, and police — anyone who interacts with potential patients — as well as people who are currently infected, are all in need of these masks. With hospitals going through thousands of masks each day, a shortage quickly formed.
Other forms of protective equipment include gowns, eyewear, gloves, and face shields. Each of these items protects healthcare workers’ clothing and skin from infected droplets produced by sick individuals. Without them, exposed nurses and doctors are likely to fall ill. And, if healthcare workers get sick in high numbers, there could be a higher rate of infection within healthcare settings, as well as a dangerous shortage of practitioners. This is the driving concept behind the “Flatten The Curve” movement.
Help is on the way
In light of the shortage of N95 masks, gowns, shields, and more, hospital staff are working to find solutions that offer healthcare providers at least some protection. Nurses and doctors are being urged to conserve masks and gowns, and to even save and reuse masks if they are not soiled or damaged.
Help is on the way on every level — from the federal government to individual communities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains a strategic reserve of PPE, from which it is deploying resources to states that need them the most. Federal and state leaders are also combatting the shortage by working with private suppliers to increase PPE production specifically for healthcare. Recently, President Donald Trump enacted the Defense Production Act to direct private companies to alter production and maximize PPE output.
Citizens also are doing their part to help. Many communities have started initiatives for the mass donation of personal supplies. Those with sewing experience have even begun creating their own masks out of fabric and elastic to donate. Although these masks don’t meet N95 regulations, they offer more protection than none.
The lack of attainable PPE in healthcare settings is alarming, but help is on the way. There is a recognized need for these items and a global concerted effort to answer the demand. Even billionaires are getting involved.
At Health Providers Choice, travel nurses’ health and safety are a top priority. Any nurse who feels at risk during their assignment or who is not given proper PPE to treat patients should contact their recruiter immediately to find solutions. It’s an unprecedented time for healthcare, and front-line workers deserve the proper protection as they work to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic.