Personal Protective Equipment Solutions

Personal Protective Equipment Solutions

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, medical professionals have lived with the onslaught of the shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE). It went as far as people unsafely reusing equipment, using expired PPE, or fashioning their own. Surgical masks, gowns, respirators, aprons, and facemasks went missing. The supply chain was quickly disrupted and distributors had to go into allocation mode.

In addition, nursing homes were and remain the hardest hit. Many facilities were simply not equipped at all to handle such an outbreak.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accounted for a disproportionate amount of deaths in long-term care facilities,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “It is evident that our nursing homes did not have adequate PPE available to protect our elderly citizens, and going forward we must ensure that we are doing all we can to save lives in the event for a future health crisis.”

The shortage of PPE developed globally as a novel virus invaded many countries. For a long time, there was very little knowledge of treatments for Covid-19 and many mistakes were made along the way. The general public went into panic buying mode as well, causing a surge in certain items being bought that was never before seen. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes disappeared from store shelves. 

The World Health Organization has estimated that 89 million medical grade masks are required for the Covid-19 response each month. For medical gloves, that number is approximately 76 million and the international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.

The initial response was to plead with the public to not buy up certain items. The WHO advises rational and appropriate use of PPE in all healthcare settings. Supply chains also need to be effectively managed.

The ongoing process of working with governments is what the WHO continues to strive for. It is most important for critically affected countries to be assessed first. The WHO estimates that Industry must increase manufacturing by 40 percent.

What is the Solution to the Shortage of PPE?

First off, many things have changed for the supply chain and manufacturing processes. One route some states have gone is to offer incentives. For example:

  • In Massachusetts, there is now a Manufacturing Emergency Response Team. It was offered a $10 million grant for the efforts to produce more PPE. Of that $10 million, $9.5 million was distributed to 15 companies.

  • Maryland has used $5 million in Covid-19 Emergency Relief Manufacturing Funds to make grants up to $100,000 available to companies manufacturing PPE and other critical needs items. In the first round, twenty companies received these grants and 25 additional companies received the money in the second round.

  • In the state of Virginia, they have chosen to create the VA PPE Retooling Playbook to “help manufacturers understand key elements for making PPE.” This tool provides guidance on the types of PPE in demand, an overview of regulatory issues pertaining to the production and distribution of PPE, process maps, and resources for additional assistance.

  • Michigan provided grants between $10,000 and $150,000 to small manufacturing businesses that produce PPE. 

In October 2020, there was another attempt by the United States government to also help with the PPE shortage. The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Senators Patrick Diegnan, Vin Gopal and Joseph Vitale that would ensure health facilities have PPE readily available in the event of a future public health emergency. 

The bill is S-2566/2677 and requires long-term care facilities and hospitals to maintain a minimum supply of PPE at all times. For nursing homes, this means that PPE needs to be sufficient for 30 to 60 days. For hospitals, they need a minimum PPE supply lasting 90 days. 

Preparation is key into battling the ongoing Covid-19 virus. This is especially true for the most vulnerable populations which are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Should the need arise again, hospitals and nursing homes should be better equipped to handle an influx of patients. 

Final Thoughts

It is hard to know if the medical industry will ever be fully prepared for anything that is thrown their way. When supply chains break and the general public starts panicking, the outcome is never good. The only good thing is to recognize what a pandemic can do and where the weak links are. New response plans have been developed and manufacturers have been given more leeway to get supplies distributed quicker than ever.