On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization designated “coronavirus disease 2019” (COVID-19) a global pandemic. As the number of cases worldwide continues to grow exponentially, social distancing has become the norm to slow the rate of transmission. The goal of course, is to help ‘flatten the curve’ of new infections in order to avoid healthcare systems being overwhelmed by unprecedented demands for patient care and medical supplies.
Until that curve begins to flatten, hospitals continue to report shortages of essential protective equipment for their front line staff and much needed supplies to care for critically ill patients in Emergency Departments or ICU. Many are struggling to keep up with the demand for resources as more and more COVID-19 patients enter their doors. In fact, emergency room doctors and nurses say they don’t fear the virus as much as they worry about the shortage of protective gear to keep them from catching the disease and spreading it to patients. https://www.cnn.com/videos/health/2020/04/03/mount-sinai-hospital-doctors-daily-life-front-lines-covid-19-coronavirus-pkg-newday-vpx.cnn
For example, healthcare providers are using four to 10 times more protective gear such as gloves, face shields, surgical masks, gowns and lab coats. Some health systems have seen PPE orders surge more than 200% as they await a wave of patients infected with COVID-19. A national shortage of test kits and ventilators has driven hospitals to panic as they cannot find desperately needed medical supplies. As of today, New York City hospitals still need 3.3 million N95 masks, 2.1 million surgical masks, 100,000 isolation gowns and 400 ventilators by this coming weekend. It’s also estimated that the city will need an additional 2,500 to 3,000 ventilators over the course of next week.
With the CDC issuing strategies to optimize the supply of PPE and equipment, healthcare providers have no choice but to meet this enormous challenge for now – by reusing or extending the use of otherwise disposable equipment like face masks.
“…nurses he knew to be unflinching, told him they were terrified for their lives. Some used days-old face masks and wore garbage bags as gowns. When the hospitals ran out of hair nets and surgical caps, the doctor wrapped a scarf around his head. When a gown did not have long enough sleeves, a coworker wrapped tape around his arms. Despite shortages of safety equipment and the medical tools to do their jobs, health workers showed up for work and made do with creative workarounds.”
In terms of diagnostics (test kits), The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been providing unprecedented flexibility to labs and manufacturers to develop and offer COVID-19 tests across the U.S. But testing remains well below the level implemented by those countries most successful at dealing with this crisis such as China, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam. As a result, healthcare providers are left asking these – and many other – questions they navigate the new world of COVID-19.
- Do we have the right tools to track and trace COVID-19 cases?
- How will we manage the restocking and inventory of PPE?
- How can we ensure enough bed capacity for the influx of COVID-19 patients?
As a global software solution vendor in Life Sciences & Healthcare, we hope to remain a valuable resource as we continue monitoring the implications of COVID-19 to our customers, partners, employees and communities.