Protective equipment supplies increasing locally, but shortages still a concern

Protective equipment supplies increasing locally, but shortages still a concern

reporter photo

MERIDEN — Donations from several local companies and the opening of two supplier pipelines relieved some of the shortage of personal protection devices for medical staffers in the state, but shortages of masks still remain in nursing homes.

“It’s a huge concern,” said Anne Hulick, the government relations liaison for the Connecticut Nurses Association. “We’re finding some facilities are certainly lacking personal protection devices. We’ve been on the phone with the governor’s office and national nurses association. Everyone is scared and rightfully so.”

Gov. Ned Lamont told healthcare providers Wednesday there were suppliers that opened and shipped materials to be distributed, Hulick said, 

“We’re working with them to make sure we’re accessing every supply chain available,” Hulick said. “Our first priority is protecting our front line workers. We have not had the resources from the federal government or suppliers.”

Hartford HealthCare announced Wednesday it was outfitting every hospital worker with N95 respirators and surgical masks, from janitors to cafeteria workers after receiving donations from several local businesses and supplies through a newly opened pipeline. 

The hospital network and the Connecticut Nurses Association are not encouraging hand-sewn masks, despite the well-meaning intent and efforts of people who want to help. The cloth masks can be germ collectors and not effective.

“We’re in agreement with the American Nurses Association that the handmade cloth masks are not effective, Hulick said. “We’re concerned it’s giving a sense of security. We can’t verify those are safe.”

Nursing homes restricted all visitors several weeks ago, and staff are evaluated for fevers prior to every shift. But because symptoms don’t often appear for several days, it’s not 100 percent effective. 

“It happened quickly and was widespread,” Hulick said “Everybody is scrambling.”

Like other nursing home, Masonicare in Wallingford has also been impacted by the shortage and is prioritizing its supply of masks for staff caring for patients on isolation precautions.

Masks will also be available to the staff members who are exempt from the mandatory flu vaccine policies, according to Masonicare.

“Like all other providers across the country, our access to supplies is strained,”  Masonicare President Jon-Paul Venoit said in an e-mail. “We are working to ensure that masks and other protective equipment are available in the event they are needed for COVID-19 or any other contagions.  Our sourcing is wide-scale and includes the generosity of our residents, staff and volunteers who are making masks for our care givers. And while we have also been the fortunate recipient of donations from generous friends and colleagues, the projected demand significantly outpaces the supply.”

U.S. Rep. Richard Blumenthal praised members of  the business and manufacturing community for coming forward to join the necessary pipelines to make masks or ventilators.

In an address to the New Haven Chamber of Commerce Wednesday he compared the evolving medical and economic situation to “adding two engines while the plane is flying.”

Testing options increase

The state continues to see increased testing for coronavirus at a variety of sites run by in state health care providers. 

On Wednesday, MedExpress Urgent Care announced it was offering COVID-19 testing at its East Main Street testing site, but patients are asked to call prior to visiting the center to be screened and given instructions.

The national chain of urgent health care centers has named the site in Meriden and another in Derby as a designated testing center giving local patients another option. Testing will only be available to those who meet CDC-based screening criteria and as testing supplies remain available, according to a statement from MedExpress.

“As one of the nation’s largest urgent care providers with locations across the country, MedExpress is uniquely positioned to serve our patients and communities by increasing access to COVID-19 testing,” said Dr. Alex Strachan, chief medical officer for MedExpress. “Testing helps us identify people who have the virus so that we can make appropriate care arrangements for them and limit exposure to others in the community.”

Anyone with symptoms is asked to call MedExpress  at 203-235-6827 and not arrive at the clinic prior to speaking with someone.

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz

Updated: March 25, 2020
"It’s a huge concern. We’re finding some facilities are certainly lacking personal protection devices. We’ve been on the phone with the governor’s office and national nurses association. Everyone is scared and rightfully so."

-Anne Hulick