A Facebook post indicated severe shortage of face masks for staff. What
is the leadership directive regarding PPE?
During the initial pandemic outbreak in Tulare County, we were forced to
implement pretty restrictive PPE conservation measures as normal supply
chain distribution channels were being greatly disrupted and our inventories
were being depleted. Understand that under normal, non-COVID conditions,
our staff rarely ever wear an N95 mask, only when taking care of patients
with tuberculosis or active measles; not even during flu season. Not knowing
yet whether the coronavirus should be handled as an airborne or droplet
virus, we had to be careful not to burn through our PPE before the surge
even hit us.
As such, we did institute a protocol where physicians and staff were asked
to reuse and practice extended use of masks and gowns as long as possible.
This is the same practice that was instituted across the country. However,
we would always, and without hesitation, replace an employee’s or
physician’s mask if it became soiled, damp or otherwise unusable.
Over the past two weeks, the availability of PPE has significantly improved,
through our conservation efforts and the stabilization of supply channels.
As such, we have been continuously adjusting our PPE protocol to reflect
this changing supply condition and last Friday issued three N95 masks
to over 2,000 employees and providers who work in the higher-risk areas,
including those ancillary staff (e.g., phlebotomists, imaging techs, respiratory
therapists, housekeepers, etc.) who work on the units with our nurses
and physicians. These masks are now changed out every day allowing for
the first mask worn to be re-worn on the 4th day, free of any virus cells that would have died off. Starting today,
we are also going to start issuing a new surgical mask every week to those
3,000 other employees of KD who do not work in the high-risk clinical
areas but we want protected from contracting the virus or giving it to
someone else in the event they are infected but asymptomatic.
As of yesterday, we had 75,099 N95 masks; 125,473 surgical masks; 65,125
pairs of gloves; 10,842 isolation gowns; 3,552 face shields; and 444 goggles/safety glasses.