Shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment) are a "double stressor." Departures from standard PPE practices to stretch limited supplies place hospital staff as well as patients at heightened risk for virus transmission. And the stress experienced by staff now starts even before such conservation measures are taken. Clinical leaders at institutions admitting COVID-19 patients report staff tensions rising as soon as they see PPE dwindling in supply closets, as all know how hard it is to re-stock PPE right now. The stress can be particularly pronounced for staff in high-risk groups and who have young families at home.
How to find additional PPE nearby
To bolster supplies, a growing number of hospitals have turned to their local communities and received meaningful donations of surgical masks and other PPE from local businesses not associated with health care.
How are they making those asks?
In general, hospitals seeing a return on such efforts publicize a list of the supplies they need through press releases, social media, and other broad channels, along with contact information for how to donate. They caution against overinvesting in more targeted outreach because the size of individual donations tends to be modest. Additionally, local companies seem inclined to act proactively right now.
Which businesses should you be asking for PPE?
There are a handful of non-health care businesses that regularly use PPE suitable for the hospital setting, particularly masks and gloves, and may have larger amounts of stock on hand. Below is a list of these businesses. We recommend that hospitals complement general solicitation efforts for PPE with more direct outreach to such companies, if sizeable and nearby.
Non-health care businesses to turn to for PPE:
- Construction companies;
- Woodworking, painting, industrial coating companies;
- Welding suppliers;
- Marine suppliers;
- General industrial suppliers (such as Granger, Fastenal);
- Automotive stores;
- Heavy equipment, worksite machinery rental companies (such as United Rentals);
- Cleaning companies (especially fire, water and mold restoration franchises); and
- Agriculture companies.
Cheat sheet: Strategies to optimize PPE and equipment
The CDC shared strategies to optimize the use of PPE supplies in health care settings when there is limited supply. This document summarizes the “need-to-know” information from that guidance.