CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Area hospitals are taking steps to make sure their supply of personal protective equipment or PPE doesn’t disappear at a time when masks, eye protection and surgical gowns remain critical for healthcare workers.
Novant Health Chief Safety and Quality Officer Dr. David Priest said the health system is asking its team members “to be good stewards” of supplies.
“Today, Novant Health has enough supplies, including personal protection equipment (PPE), to keep our team members, patients, and communities safe from infectious diseases - including emerging infectious diseases like the novel coronavirus,” Dr. Priest said in a statement. “While it is unknown if we will have a surge of patients at once, we have asked all our team members to be good stewards of our supplies - including donning PPE only in cases where health safety standards dictate.”
Dr. Priest, though, noted PPE is not appropriate for every healthcare worker to wear.
“When proper social distancing, personal hygiene, and appropriate use of PPE are in place, the risk of transmission of the virus is low,” Dr. Priest said.
“Our team members, patients, and community depend on our ability to care for them in a crisis. And we are.”
Atrium Health, meanwhile, reports they too are working to make sure healthcare workers and patients are safe.
“Like many hospital systems throughout the US, we face the supply and demand challenges that exist everywhere in the current environment,” Atrium Health said in a statement. “We were fortunate to have done advance planning and have been able to follow the CDC guidelines as we've provided care to patients. We're doing - and will continue to do - everything possible to ensure the health and safety of our healthcare workers and our patients."
North Carolina’s pandemic ethical guidelines call for those in health care to get priority when it comes to PPE, but fears hospitals will be overwhelmed with COVID cases have the government and advocates searching for more supplies.
A former head of Medicare and Medicaid Andy Slavitt put out a plea on Twitter to dentists, painters, contractors and plastic surgeons Friday.
“Please--- if you have any protective gear, N-95 masks or other, gloves, thermometers sitting around, bring them to your local hospitals. In any number. All you have,” he tweeted.
Within the last 24 hours, the federal government announced it is deploying PPE from the Strategic National Stockpile “in support of our partners in the states, the nation’s largest cities & U.S. territories.”
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday the agency has secured the purchase of “significant quantities” of N-95 respirator masks for health care providers and first responders.
“We are continuing to procure other needed personal protective equipment including other types of masks, gloves and gowns,” the agency said.
Earlier this week, Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris shared that she expects the county will have to get creative in the coming days to provide enough protective gear for Charlotte-area healthcare workers.
“Protective equipment is challenging,” she said Tuesday. "Right now, no one has run out of protective equipment, but we are burning through some of it fairly quickly and looking at how we can make sure we have what we need, so our first responders and healthcare providers are protected.”
Harris is not the only one worried. An area hospital worker, who asked that we protect their identity, told us there are legitimate concerns.
“It's very scary,” the person said. “We know we’re gonna do this to take care of people and put ourselves out there, but you want to feel like you've got the proper equipment.”