By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Dr. Jane Jenab, a Denver-based emergency room physician, warned on Wednesday of area hospitals already rationing vital medical equipment for health care workers. Items like face masks, surgical gowns and gloves, she said, were already part of a “significant shortage” that threatened the health of doctors and nurses and would eventually impact hospital patients.

“We are anticipating a massive surge of patients over the next few weeks,” said Jenab. “And we are not prepared.”

(credit: CBS)

She was speaking about what is known as Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, for health care workers.

“We are being asked to ration what we have. We are being asked to use masks repeatedly over and over through the day which decreases their effectiveness.”

Jenab rotates through various hospitals and says when it comes to PPE gear, “We’re running through them quickly due to the risk of contagion at this time.”

A nurse at another major Colorado hospital told CBS4 she was being given a single mask for an entire day. She said she would typically use and discard 10 such masks prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. She asked her name not be used for fear or retaliation.

Jenab said a shortage of PPE equipment will impact hospital patients if doctors and nurses get sick and are not able to work.

“We as health care providers, if we get sick and are removed from the workforce due to exposure or actually being sick, what happens to the workforce? We’re anticipating an enormous surge of patients and not sure we will have the staff and supplies to take care of what’s coming.”

(credit: CBS)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week addressed the mask shortage by recommending the use of bandanas, if needed.

RELATED: Latest Updates On The Coronavirus Outbreak In Colorado

“In settings where face masks are not available, (health care providers) might use homemade masks (e.g. bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort,” wrote the CDC.

At a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis said he had spoken this week to Vice President Mike Pence about the PPE shortage.

“We are doing everything we can to acquire more PPE,” said Polis. “We are looking at where else PPE resides in the state.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said “there is significant worldwide demand” for PPE equipment, “and we’re continuing to seek additional resources.” The agency noted they are aware that Colorado hospitals “are experiencing limited supplies.”

Doctors and nurses have taken to Twitter to air their concerns. Under the hashtags “#GETMEPPE” and “#WENEEDPPE,” doctors and nurses have been showing and explaining how they are reusing masks for as long as five days, even after being exposed to COVID-19.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he would invoke the 1950 Defense Production Act, which would allow the government to push for faster production of much-needed medical supplies and gives the government priority in obtaining those supplies.

“We need to push production now, not tomorrow. Now, now, now,” exclaimed Jenab. “As if we were in wartime, we need to convert factories that have been producing other goods into producing masks, gloves and gowns.”

RELATED: Project C.U.R.E. Donates Medical Supplies Close To Home As Well As Around The World

Brian Maass

Comments (9)
  1. Wkenddad says:

    We have a similar problem
    Theft:
    By patients, Vendors, and even staff
    Patients were grabbing boxes of masks and yanking the sanitizers from the wall.
    Vendors would deliver their product and steal cases of masks or other supplies.
    Even employees would take a few masks of bottle of sanitizer home

  2. Kim Hewson says:

    The masks don’t help the medical personnel. They keep the infected patients breath contained somewhat.

    1. Joe says:

      No, you’re a bit less likely to get it if you are wearing a mask. So the masks help a little, but yes, they are more to prevent people from spreading it. And considering that this virus can be asymptomatic for weeks (it usually takes about 5 days to show symptoms), and that it is contagious during much of this time, it is very important for healthcare workers to have masks. Yes, it reduces the risk they will catch it a little, but mostly, if they have it but aren’t showing symptoms, it reduces the risk they will spread it to patients.

      1. K Marshall RN BSN says:

        COVID-19 patients are placed in a negative flow isolation room to contain their disease and keep it from spreading to other patients. Clinicians need N-95 masks to prevent them from breathing infected air A LOT Joe. They also where a gown and gloves to keep the virus off of their hands and clothing. PPE protects the clinician as well as other patients. As a nurse I would not care for a COVID-19 patient without these items.

        1. Joe says:

          Thank you for the information. I think the problem is that this article doesn’t specify what counts as a PPE mask. I agree that N-95 Masks are excellent and help a ton. But are ALL PPE masks N-95? I was under the impression that surgical masks are also PPE. I actually know a few nurses who have been told to wear a scarf or bandana over their mouths. I assume a surgical mask would be a big improvement over that. At any rate, it sounds like there’s a shortage of N-95s AND surgical masks (which aren’t nearly as effective but still help). Anyway, I think we were talking about different kinds of masks, as the article didn’t actually define PPE.
          Anyway, I hope you are staying safe from this virus. It sucks to be a healthcare worker right now. Good luck.

  3. Yaspar says:

    Preparation has been denounced by liberals for years. Who’s sneering now, chumps?

    1. Jim says:

      How’s the weather in Moscow? This comment makes zero sense.

    2. LynnieSue says:

      Spreading lies and misinformation isn’t helpful and is counterproductive. The Obama Administration set up a pandemic unit staffed with experts. The Obama Administration warned Trump before he took office that a massive deadly flu was likely to come. Trump disbanded the pandemic unit and dismissed all the experts. The Trump Administration ignored warnings of a massive deadly pandemic was sure to come.

  4. L P says:

    Do we have anyone couped up with a sewing machine? I’m not kidding…

    https://www.france24.com/en/20200317-stitch-in-time-czechs-sew-to-combat-virus-mask-shortage

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