As Chaffee County and the State of Colorado wrestle with the surge in COVID-19 cases, similar to other counties and states, the shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) supplies is an increasing concern.
Local health workers privately have revealed their concerns over having to wear masks multiple days, and officials have reported exploring ways to extend the life of even worker gowns in light of the shortages nationwide.
A shipment of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile was sent to El Paso County recently, and Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center (HRRMC) Marketing and Public Relations Director Allison Gergley said county officials were waiting to see what would arrive in the local shipment.
Chaffee County Emergency Manager Richard Atkins said Friday while the shipment received for local health providers was small, given the amount of demand nationwide, but that ongoing supplies are anticipated, from the government as well as regular providers.
Atkins said the situation is like ‘holding place’ until the national supply chain gets revamped.
“As more and more companies are converting their production lines to Personal Protective Equipment, we know it’s coming; we’re just trying to maintain … by stretching what supplies we have and that’s why we’re asking for the public’s assistance to provide any that they may have, or to any of the commercial businesses that may still have it better being shut down because of this, so that’s what we’re doing – we know this is coming, we just don’t know when; the big shipments will be coming in as the supply chain gets ramped up,” he said.
The community hopes for a big turn out for a campaign seeking donations of such equipment this afternoon (Friday, March 27) at the Touber Building, at 448 East 1st St., from 3 to 5 p.m. as well as one in Buena Vista on Monday March 30 at the Buena Vista Annex Building, 112 Linderman Ave., from 2 to 4 p.m.
HRRMC CEO Bob Morasko previously said the facility was focused on following Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) guidelines on supply shortages for such things as protective medical masks.
“Although not ideal, the CDC and CDPHE recommend to reuse N95 masks in light of a shortage, keep it dry, and layer other types of masks on top of your N95 to help prolong its life,” he said.
“If the supply becomes even more stretched thin, we’ll immediately look to the CDC and CDPHE for additional direction,” he added.
Gergley said earlier that HRRMC faced some of the same shortages as a majority of hospitals around the country.
The hospital is also accepting public donations of such materials. “Masks and gowns are so essential, as are test kits,” she said.
“Our Materials Department is working tirelessly to leave no stone unturned in terms of identifying and acquiring PPE, and have several strategies in place with vendors and businesses. Another initiative by Materials is that they have set up a donation program. If anyone in the community has critical pandemic supplies, we have a large plastic tub at the entrance to each of our facilities for accepting donations. We prefer unopened packages, but will accept any items in need as long as they are in some sort of container or bag (no loose items). We will also be coordinating with Public Health on their PPE donation drive on Friday,” she added.