Rising Coronavirus Cases Put Fresh Strain On Mask Supplies
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Hospitals, nursing homes face new challenges finding enough N95s for front-line workers
One of the earliest states to roll back restrictions on surgery, Texas initially required hospitals to promise they wouldn’t ask for state or federal inventory of protective equipment for the rest of the coronavirus pandemic. The state soon dropped the requirement. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday again halted some surgeries as Covid-19 patients pushed hospital intensive-care units near capacity.
“We are still having to use one mask for the entire day,” said Serena Bumpus, director of practice for the Texas Nurses Association. “The more Covid patients we have in the hospital means the more PPE we will be required to use.”
The uncertain supply of protective equipment has limited how quickly some hospitals can bring in patients whose procedures were previously delayed.
“We have to be really careful not to overshoot and have a full hospital and be too busy and run out of supplies,” said Kathryn Schabel, an orthopedic surgeon and associate professor at Oregon Health and Science University.
Demand for masks has nearly doubled in the past month among the hospitals, surgical centers and nursing homes on a medical-supply exchange launched in April by organizations including Stanford Health Care and Resilinc, a supply-chain risk management company.
Hospitals on the exchange can request inventory to ease shortages by offering surplus of another type of equipment. Buyers for more than 2,000 hospitals have signed on, said Bindiya Vakil, Resilinc’s chief executive. Demand for N95s in some sizes exceeds supply, she said.