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Conserving PPE: What local hospitals are doing and how nurses feel about it

Nurses want masks in every hospital department, not just COVID-19 specific areas.

TOLEDO, Ohio — As lawmakers and state officials work to address the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage in Ohio, nurses and doctors continue to struggle to protect themselves. 

Many area nurses are concerned that PPE is being conserved at their expense.

"I know it's a problem everywhere but obviously (for) the nursing staff, the anxiety is building," one nurse from Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center said.

Nurses in select units at St. Vincent's, said they have been given face shields to use for the duration of the crisis, which they must wipe down after visiting each room. 

Mercy Health officials said they are following CDC guidelines and are making sure employees in high risk areas receive PPE.

Officials from Mercy Health provided this statement:

"Mercy Health follows CDC guidelines regarding personal protective equipment, protocols and processes. As a system, we are working around the clock to assess and monitor PPE needs, broadly sourcing and distributing supplies, and pursuing forward-thinking strategies to equip the system for the future. We are practicing the responsible allocation of resources – in alignment with the CDC – to ensure our clinicians have access to required personal protective equipment, especially when they are in high-risk areas and participating in high-risk activities. High-risk areas include the emergency department, intensive care units, operating rooms, isolation areas, COVID-19 treatment areas and flu clinics.

In terms of screening, we are conducting thermometer screening for high-risk employees prior to the beginning of the shift. All respiratory therapists and health care workers, including providers in high-risk settings noted above, are required (at a minimum) to follow the temperature scanning process when they report to the designated point within their work location. If an associate is running a fever, he or she will be asked to go home and not report to work for the day. Additionally, the associate will be referred to our employee health team for additional monitoring as necessary." 

But because many COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic, nurses want masks in every department throughout the hospital, and wish more of an effort was made on their behalf.

 "I don't feel like there's been any community outreach to try and find other sources for that," one nurse from St. Vincent Medical Center said.

Nurses at other hospitals in northwest Ohio said they are also struggling with PPE being conserved for certain areas of the hospital. 

"And these are nurses taking care of already vulnerable patents, and with an incubation time of up to 14 days, that is hundreds of people a day they are exposing," one nurse said.

Late last week, ProMedica put out a call for donations of PPE. There are directions online for sewing masks at home here. You can also e-mail donations@promedica.org for more information. 

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