As coronavirus numbers in the United States are exponentially increasing, healthcare leaders are extremely concerned about how this will play out in the coming months. During the initial peak of the pandemic, many healthcare organizations had to reorganize and reprioritize services in order to provide support to those on the front-lines of the fight against the virus. However, with how quickly the virus spread, many healthcare workers were faced with massive shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, testing equipment, medications, and other general infrastructure to both protect themselves and support infected patients.
A widely cited Washington Post-Ipsos poll conducted in May indicated dire results: when healthcare workers were asked about mask shortages, the poll found that “Roughly 8 in 10 reported wearing one mask for an entire shift, and more than 7 in 10 had to wear the same mask more than once.” A more recent survey regarding how healthcare facilities are adjusting to PPE shortages indicated similarly shocking findings: “52% [of respondents] said they had to ask healthcare workers in certain hospital units to use the same disposable N95 respirator for a whole day, 71% who reported PPE at “limited” or “crisis” levels practiced extended respirator use or reuse, and 48% said they reprocessed respirators. Some healthcare workers used surgical or cloth masks over their respirators and stored them in a paper bag to preserve them for reuse.” Indeed, this supply chain crisis places a massive and unique burden on healthcare workers.
Boston, MA- April 13, 2020. Used N95 masks are collected at Massachusetts General Hospital. Hospital … [+]
Boston Globe via Getty Images
Thus, as more states continue to reopen and the coronavirus infection rate is quickly resurging, hospitals are ramping up their efforts to try and resolve this problem immediately. The urgency of this situation is also critical, as healthcare and public health officials have repeatedly warned of how a potential second wave of infections in the Fall may be worse than the initial, especially with the overlap of flu season. A recent finding by Premier Inc., a healthcare improvement firm with a network of more than 4,000 hospitals, reports that as healthcare systems and states nationwide are ramping up their purchasing and collection of PPE, providers are finding that certain key products have significant back-orders, likely indicating increased demand or decreased supply of these products. Some of these back-ordered items include N95 masks, isolation gowns, surgical gowns, testing kits, and exam gloves. Per an additional Premier report as of last week, a majority of hospitals surveyed indicated that they are equally focusing their efforts on stockpiling medications that will be essential to manage the upcoming surge of Covid-19 cases in the coming months. These include mainly sedatives, neuromuscular blockers, controlled substances, and medications used for intubation and life support emergencies.
On a more national scale, states are equally under pressure to ensure that their communities and healthcare systems are well supported in the case of possible future waves of the virus. Notably, two senators in California have introduced a bill to ensure that hospital systems, healthcare entities, and the California Department of Public Health maintain a 90-day supply of PPE. Given that California was one of the hardest hit states during the pandemic, and is currently undergoing a massive resurgence in infection numbers, the goal behind this bill is to ensure that healthcare systems are well equipped for the months ahead.
Mexico City, Mexico- May 21, 2020. A factory in Mexico City produces 40,000 N95 masks per day. … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
Indeed, the war against the pandemic is yet to be won, especially in the United States, where infection numbers are rapidly increasing. With potential problems in the PPE supply chain, the upcoming flu-season, and a viable vaccine yet to be finalized, healthcare systems and providers are bracing for a tough battle ahead.
The content of this article is not implied to be and should not be relied on or substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment by any means, and is not written or intended as such. This content is for information purposes only. Consult with a trained medical professional for medical advice.