With the increased risk that comes with treating those who have or think they have COVID-19, healthcare professionals are struggling to protect themselves while facing a national shortage of supplies. In this article, CNECT will be outlining some recommendations on how to preserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. For guidelines, we recommend referencing CDC Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of PPE.
Restrict Spread at Each Site of Care
Consider ways to screen and control the number of patients going through the location by implementing engineering and administrative controls, helping to minimize the number of individuals who need to use PPE. Healthcare workers can reserve PPE for direct contact with symptomatic patients and screenings, which will also protect healthcare personnel who are not wearing PPE.
Adhere to CDC-Issued Protocols for PPE Supply Conservation and Expand Use of Expired and Non-Healthcare Masks
Because the supply of N95 respirators can become near-depleted during the conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has created supply conservation protocols to help healthcare facilities optimize their usage of masks. CDC helps distinguish different surge capacities that range from daily care capacity to surge capacity for more methodical approaches to face the N95 shortage. Additionally, CDC has recommended practices for extended use and reuse of N95 respirators. In their guidelines, “extended use” refers to wearing the same N95 respirator for repeated close encounters with multiple patients without the removal of the mask between. “Reuse” is defined as using the same N95 respirator for several patients. The decision to extend and reuse N95 respirators should be made case by case, but regardless, following the guidelines will help protect the healthcare workers who are at higher risk.
Make Astute Supply Orders and Avoid Panic Buying
Due to the high demand and supply shortage, it is important that healthcare facilities do not resort to buying and storing more than they need. Until the supply is stabilized it is recommended that healthcare facilities conserve their ordering for only what they can use immediately.
Be Wary of Purchasing Grey Market Products
Because of the shortage of authorized and official supplies for PPE, there are many more offers through unofficial channels with often inflated prices. It is important to have caution when buying supplies from the grey market because, due to the lack of screening, products may be of lesser quality and/or may be counterfeits. Premier has written guidelines on how to avoid scams and best practices that will protect healthcare personnel.
Due to the supply shortage, making the most of the PPE you currently have on hand is essential. Ensure all PPE is secured in locked containers, continuously track the quantity of PPE on hand as well as burn rates and projected deliveries. Lessen those in need of PPE by eliminating visitors, canceling elective surgeries, and stopping all non-essential services. Consult your local hospital requirements clinical guidelines for COVID-19 safety or applicable CDC guidelines for additional information or guidance.