Hospitals should brace for up to 17-fold surge in demand for supplies

Dive Brief:

  • Hospitals should prepare for up to a 17X surge in demand for supplies as COVID-19 case numbers rise and new hotspots emerge, according to a report from Premier.
  • The survey of hospitals by the purchasing group found that active cases of COVID-19 in facilities creates a surge demand of 17 times the typical burn rate for N95 respirators, 8.6 times for face shields, six times for swabs, five times for isolation gowns and 3.3 times for surgical masks.
  • Hospitals ranked N95s as a top concern. The survey found that the average respondent had 23 days of N95 inventory on hand, while those with active COVID-19 patients had an average of just three days’ worth.

Dive Insight:

A sharp supply squeeze nationally has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to shift its guidance on personal protective equipment, permitting clinicians to use bandanas or scarves as a last resort to preserve the most coveted gear.

Such alternatives are hardly comparable to N95 respirators, which are in especially short supply. N95 masks filter out at least 95% of very small particles and were previously the standard when treating patients suspected to be contagious.

The Premier survey looked at supply levels at 1,591 hospitals across 40 states from March 16 to 20.

“Our data shows that many providers believed they were well equipped, only to see their stocks depleted in a matter of days as they started requiring increased use of PPE across a broader population of healthcare workers,” Premier President Michael Alkire said in a statement.

Healthcare workers across the country are struggling to get the equipment they need to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. And while emergency rooms seem to be bearing the brunt of treating patients with the virus, nursing home staff are equally at risk treating patients in the highest risk groups.

Crystal Solorzano, founder and CEO of ReNew Health, said she’s been scrambling for more gear after her supplier’s shipments stopped arriving at the nursing homes she operates in Los Angeles earlier this month.

During a press conference with the Service Employees International Union Local 2015, which represents 400,000 nursing home and home care workers throughout California — she and other nursing home owners lamented that they can’t get protective supplies from where they used to given the surge in demand.

Some have turned to beauty supply stores, others have fashioned tablecloths and raincoats into gowns.

Solorzano said she’s strategically preserving her small supply of N95 masks until the facility has active COVID-19 patients. In the meantime, she’s turning to other suppliers for the gear she can get. Manufacturers in Los Angeles’ garment district are now making reusable PPE such as masks and isolation gowns that she’s purchasing for her nursing home staff.

State Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento joined nursing home workers’ pleas for increased production of supplies to stem the surge in demand, calling on President Donald Trump to further use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to produce needed supplies.

“We need more of the stuff, we don’t need to pay higher prices for the stuff that’s out there,” Pan said during the call. “We need that PPE, we need a much larger supply, we need domestic production and we can’t expect it to come from overseas.”

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