COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Amid the coronavirus outbreak, healthcare workers across the United States are on the front lines, trying to treat patients while protecting themselves.
The federal government is working to ensure that these healthcare workers maintain the necessary supplies of PPE, also known as personal protective equipment, they need to stay safe while helping patients.
However, as the number of coronavirus cases multiplies across the country and in South Carolina, hospitals are saying it’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain their supplies of things like masks, gloves, and gowns.
At this point, some areas in the midlands seem to be struggling more than others. Officials at Lexington Medical Center and Prisma Health said that as of Monday, they aren’t short of supplies.
Hospitals and government officials in counties like Kershaw County and Orangeburg County have raised concern in the midst of dwindling supplies, and are asking for additional help from both the community, the state, and federal government.
“Here on ground zero, there is a supply problem, and we need their help in remedying that problem,” Senator Vincent Sheheen representing Kershaw county said on Thursday about his county’s need for additional PPE supplies from the state and federal government.
While some relief came over the weekend as South Carolina’s allotment of the PPE Strategic National Stockpile landed in the state, Senator Sheheen said today that supplies are still low at hospitals in Kershaw County, and it continues to be a problem. The SC Hospital Association spokesman Schipp Ames said many hospitals across the state are feeling this way right now.
“We did receive South Carolina’s share of that national strategic stockpile, it wasn’t quite as much as we expected, and it really wasn’t quite up to the level of what our hospitals need in an acute setting, so most of that PPE has already been identified for nursing homes, long term care centers, and other types of clinics and specialty centers,” Ames said.
The shipment included 39,840 N-95 Respirators, 155,500 Face Masks/Surgical Masks, 16,412 Face Shields, 15,054 Surgical Gowns, and 38,900 Gloves. DHEC officials said the supplies were distributed to every county based on population.
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“I can say that every hospital is closely monitoring its inventory of personal protective equipment and considering multiple strategies to try to curb supply,” Ames said.
Prisma Health officials said they have been able to stay ahead of the game.
“We do have a pandemic of backstock of items that we keep at our off-site warehouse, as well as our emergency supplies that we keep track of on a monthly basis,” Christopher Bowell, Prisma Health System director of Engineering and Support service.
Other hospitals have been trying to keep supplies stocked by calling in the community to help. Officials at Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg have started asking businesses to donate PPE, like gloves, gowns, and masks. Over the weekend Governor McMaster also called on industries that also use this gear, like the construction industry, to donate those supplies to hospitals right now.
Governor McMaster said that if you are a business or community member wanting to donate any PPE, you can contact Mary Louise Resch of Habitat for Humanity at email@example.com.
DHEC officials say they expect to receive a second shipment in the next few weeks with more PPE.