Even though we are several months into the coronavirus pandemic, smaller clinics and businesses are still struggling to get proper masks and other protective gear.
In response to shortages of personal protective equipment, PPE, many clinics, and other companies in the medical field switched to initial intakes being done outside. This helps reduce exposure and preserve the gear they have on hand.
Now that some of the PPE manufacturing has caught up to the demands, many of them have a minimum requirement for those ordering. These minimums tend to require an order of at least 50,000 to 100,000 units.
Need for small supplies
Smaller clinics and businesses so not need nearly this much equipment. Often, they can’t afford the cost of orders this large.
The smaller businesses that are starting to reopen include dentists, small family doctor clinics, and other facilities. Schools and churches are also reopening and can not afford and do not need 50,000 units of PPE.
White House senior adviser, Jared Kushner, states that Project Airbridge allowed for equipment to be brought in from Asia, and that domestic production has started due to the Defense Production Act. He feels that the shortage complaints are being exaggerated.
The American Medical Association, or AMA, has repeatedly requested for some government response. There needs to be a database that can track where supplies are needed most and who can get them there.
Large operations stockpile while small ones struggle
Larger hospital chains have no problem getting the PPE they need. They are able to afford large orders of equipment and actually need the amount of equipment many manufacturers are requiring as a minimum.
Dr. Megan Ranney of Brown University states that small businesses that are unable to afford such large quantities are struggling to obtain the needed equipment even though they tend to be the places affected the most.
As a co-founder of the GetUsPPE non-profit, which supply health care workers with donated PPE, she believes that the shortage will not go away and that the cost of the equipment is too expensive.
The need for government coordination
Both a nurse in New Jersey and a doctor in Georgia are surprised that the shortage of PPE has lasted as long as it has and that there has been little help from the government.
With schools starting to open back up, they are still having trouble providing PPE for teachers and staff. School nurse Robin Cogan of N.J. has heard from nurses in other districts that they were told to provide their own protective equipment.
Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, of Atlanta, has resorted to placing N95 masks, which she was able to order in bulk through the AMA, in plastic baggies and hanging them up in her office so that they can be reused.
She feels that the government dropped the ball in coordinating the access to PPE. During a pandemic there should not be this much trouble in getting the proper equipment and that smaller businesses were forgotten in planning for the demand of PPE.