Coronavirus impact: Bay Area healthcare workers speak out about mask, medical supply shortages

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Bay Area healthcare workers speak out about mask, medical supply shortage
Bay Area healthcare workers say there is a shortage of personal protective equipment at hospitals around the country.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There is a shortage of personal protective equipment at hospitals around the country.

In the Bay Area healthcare workers are concerned about their own safety and the safety of their patients because of the shortage.

"We have to have gowns, masks, and face shields. All those are in limited supply," said Allan Kamara, an emergency room nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

Kamara is also the vice president of Registered Nurses Professional Association, a nurses union.

"You are assigned one mask per shift," said Kamara, who says they don't have enough N95's to change masks between each patient.

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"We are being put in a position where we have to do a job that we really want to do, but we don't have the supplies to do that job right," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control has guidance on their website about how to work around a mask shortage. When no facemasks are available, the website says for healthcare providers to use a bandana or scarf as a last resort to care for patients with COVID-19.

"They say that we're running out of equipment and we'll probably out of masks in two weeks," said a healthcare worker who spoke to ABC7 by phone and did not want to be identified by name.

She works in the OB unit of an independent trauma hospital in Oakland.

"I think like two weeks from now, half of us will be out sick and we just already don't have the staff to take care of patients. We have a very vulnerable patient population," she said, explaining that she's worried about screening procedures for patients and visitors at her hospital.

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"We feel like leadership isn't taking strong enough positions to protect us, to protect the hospital, to protect our patients," she added.

Multiple Bay Area Kaiser employees have posted on social media about the shortage of personal protective equipment at their facilities. Several of those employees said they were asked by Kaiser superiors to remove the posts.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Kaiser addressed their supply shortage:

"Kaiser Permanente's top priority is the safety of our patients and staff.

As the virus is now spreading quickly through many communities, we've gone from screening a few patients a day to screening hundreds, and our equipment and supply needs have increased dramatically as a result. At the same time, incoming shipments of new supplies and equipment are now being delayed or cancelled, due to manufacturers' supply chain challenges and a surge of demand across the global healthcare industry.

We are prudently managing our resources and aggressively pursuing additional supplies to ensure this equipment is available for our health care workforce for the duration of this pandemic. We appreciate that community members and organizations are asking how they can help and donate supplies to help protect our patients and staff. Offers are being considered at the individual hospital level but it is important to understand that any donations must be reviewed by our infectious disease specialists and against CDC guidelines to ensure the equipment is safe and can fully perform the protection it is meant to provide."

To help manage the supply shortage, a Kaiser employee shared new donation guidance from the hospital at Geary and Divisadero in San Francisco.

Unused goggles, face shields, hand sanitizers, masks: N95s, surgical, and isolation masks, isolation or surgical gowns, and any Clorox and Sani-cloth wipes can be donated by mail or loading dock drop-off at 2130 O'Farrell Street.

Brent Andrews, with Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, said they can not accept donations at this time. In a statement, he said:

"We have a brilliant team both acquiring and managing supply of PPE. Every hospital in the city is coordinating about PPE, hospital capacity, number of cases, etc. We're on calls daily.

We have to meet very strict regulatory and licensing standards, so can't accept donations of PPE from individuals."

Andrews said the City of San Francisco was working on a plan to to accept PPE donations from the public.