Nursing homes, small providers say they’re still struggling to meet PPE demand

Nursing homes and small providers are still struggling to obtain enough personal protective equipment to protect workers against COVID-19, according to an investigation by Kaiser Health News

Large hospitals and health systems have been stockpiling supplies, but many smaller facilities aren’t able to keep an adequate supply of PPE for their day-to-day operations. More than a quarter of nursing homes reported shortages of items such as N95 masks, gloves and gowns from Aug. 24 to Sept. 20. A survey from the American Medical Association found 36% of physician offices reported having a difficult time securing PPE in July and August.

“They’re putting additional strain on what’s still a fragile hospital supply chain,” Soumi Saha, vice president of advocacy for Premier, told Kaiser Health News. “We want available product to go to front-line healthcare workers and not go into a warehouse right now.”

A new California law requires hospitals to have stockpiles of three months of PPE starting in April, or they could face $25,000 fines. For an average hospital, a 90-day supply of PPE is $2 million worth of equipment that fills about 14 trucks, a Premier executive told Kaiser Health News

Nursing homes and clinics struggle to obtain as much protective gear as hospitals because they’ve never used large amounts of protective gear in the past, so they don’t have the same buying history and aren’t prioritized by vendors, according to Kaiser Health News

“Here we are in October, and the fact that there is not an abundance of PPE for every nursing home in the country is a literal abomination. Without PPE, you lose to this virus,” Michael Wasserman, MD, the former president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, told Kaiser Health News

Susan Bailey, MD, president of the AMA, told Kaiser Health News that federal officials need to step in to help solve supply issues. 

“We urge the administration to pull every lever to ramp up PPE production — for N95 masks, gowns and testing supplies — and coordinate distribution,” she said. 

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