March 26 2020
Parkinson Appeals for Personal Protection Equipment Donations, Conservation
3/17/2020 Patrick Connole
Of all the challenges long term and post-acute care (LT/PAC) providers are facing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) like masks and gowns is right near the top, said Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) on Tuesday in an exclusive talk with Provider.
He appealed to other provider groups for donations as they review if they can share their own PPE to send to skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, which face a dire threat given that COVID-19 is especially dangerous to the elderly and frail population. LT/PAC providers, Parkinson notes, also must conserve what supplies they have.
“It is critically important that any health care provider who has excess masks, gowns, and gloves, to turn those over to nursing homes and assisted living facilities who desperately need them,” Parkinson says.
Supply disruptions in China where the virus began, as well as increased COVID-19-related demand in skilled nursing and assisted living communities and among clinicians worldwide, are the reasons for the crunch. Even as China gets its manufacturing up and running and U.S. manufacturers attempt to fill in, this process will likely take at least two months, he says.
“Unfortunately, this will be a challenge for that long if not longer,” Parkinson says.
There is positive movement, however, to help providers running low on PPE, notably in Ohio as Gov. Mike DeWine (R) on Monday contacted the Ohio Dental Association and Ohio State Dental Board and asked for help in addressing the spread of COVID-19. Among the recommendations to limit dental procedures to emergencies, the governor appealed to the groups to conduct a review of inventories and identify any surplus PPE supplies.
He then directed that any oversupply be shared with other providers who need them for caring for COVID-19 cases and those most in danger of getting the virus.
“By sharing supplies, we are directly supporting our fellow clinicians as they undertake the greatest viral threat in modern history. By rescheduling elective procedures, we are doing our part to prevent community spread,” DeWine said in his note to the dental community.
Parkinson noted that while states and the federal government have created stockpiles of items like PPE, nobody could have predicted that the “perfect storm” of COVID-19 would occur.
“The virus’ worldwide spread has resulted in a massive increase in utilization of PPE, combined with the fact that its symptoms mirror the common cold and influenza, causing even more use. Production is just starting back up in China and U.S. manufacturing is responding, but it takes time,” he says. Additionally, he said AHCA/NCAL is encouraged that the Trump administration has announced it will be releasing PPE from the national reserve to bolster the dwindling states’ stockpiles.
The other part of the PPE challenge will be for LT/PAC providers to “dramatically” conserve supplies. Parkinson said some small steps the association has heard from members that help on conservation, include to:
- Limit the number of staff in contact with residents or entering the resident’s room necessitating the use of gowns and masks.
- Perform as many care and services as possible at the same time to reduce the frequency of donning/doffing PPE.
- Prior to entering a precaution/isolation room, ensure all needed items are available/gathered to reduce unnecessary disposal of PPE by multiple entries to room.