As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to increase day by day, healthcare workers are seeing a major depletion in medical equipment. With many patients waiting to get tested, doctors and nurses are left wondering how they can continue to do their jobs and still protect their own health.
Zenei Cortez, the Co-President of National Nurses United, spoke with the news recently, saying that healthcare officials are “not scared” to take care of COVID patients, but are “scared of not protecting themselves.” With safety being one of the main concerns, doctors and nurses want to ensure they are protecting their own safety to make sure their patients’ safety is not put in jeopardy.
The severe decrease of respirators (N-95) and hospital gowns has left many healthcare officials in fear of becoming infected with the virus. If the nurses and doctors become infected, it becomes a trickling effect. What happens to the patients? And now what happens to the doctors and nurses? The lack of protective equipment and the lack of virus detection, due to testing delays, brings the fear of the unknown. This fear has unfortunately become a reality for some, with confirmed cases of healthcare workers becoming infected on the job. Some nurses and doctors are now going into self-quarantine, self willingly taking extra precautions just in case they have encountered someone carrying the COVID-19 virus without knowing.
Self-quarantine is just one of the few steps healthcare workers have taken to find a solution to the lack of equipment, with some taking matters into their own hands, literally. With the market being overwhelmed with global demand, hospitals cannot order the supplies they need as companies and warehouses are out of stock of materials needed. So, where can the healthcare world turn next to find this equipment? The answer, arts and crafts and hardware stores. Vinyl, two-sided tape, and elastic are some of the key materials coming to the rescue as workers have begun to create their own face shields, preforming assembly lines in their own conference rooms.
The use of old gear is another outlet that healthcare workers must resort to with limited access to materials. Old face masks are being re-used with workers having to disinfect their own equipment. Disinfectant wipes and bleach are a part of this process, with doctors and nurses washing their masks the night before to use for the next day. Expired masks are even being sent out to facilities for use.
While medical supplies are sparse, government officials and companies are looking for how they can assist hospitals to get the supplies they need. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. and Nasdaq have provided their own gear to hospitals after receiving a request from the Greater NY Hospital Association. Human Health Services has also sent out protective gear to hospitals who are completely out, temporarily filling the lack of supplies.
In weeks to come, many are hopeful they will have the equipment they need to continue to tackle this pandemic. Still, even with the lack of gear, doctors, nurses, and care workers continue to show the world what type of heroes we have in our day to day lives. As they say, “not all superheroes wear capes”.