Gov. Greg Abbott and state lawmakers must do everything possible to ensure that Texas physicians and other health care professionals have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
That is the message the Texas Medical Association and other health care organizations sent to Governor Abbott and lawmakers in a letter Friday.
“The existing shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 respirators, surgical masks, goggles, face shields, gowns, gloves, and even basic alcohol-based hand sanitizer puts front-line health care workers at risk and reduces personnel available to meet a surge in demand for care,” the letter from the Texas Public Health Coalition said. “In Italy, an epicenter of the current COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 1,700 health care workers have been infected. Such an outcome in Texas would be disastrous and could collapse our state’s health care delivery infrastructure.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) recommend patients with confirmed or possible COVID-19 and health care personnel wear and use PPE, particularly in clinical settings. However, shortages in Texas and globally have been reported.
The limited supply of PPE Texas received from the Strategic National Stockpile – such as surgical masks, respirators, face shields, surgical gowns, and gloves – was allocated quickly earlier this week.
“We are concerned that reserves released from the Strategic National Stockpile will be insufficient to fill current gaps, generating fear and frustration among health care workers,” the coalition’s letter says. “We are aware of efforts currently underway to accelerate PPE production, but we believe additional steps are needed to coordinate rapid deployment of essential equipment to those providing care to COVID-19 cases in diverse patient care settings.”
The letter includes several recommendations to increase and protect the state’s PPE supply, including:
- Continue making expeditious requests for Strategic National Stockpile supplies, including vital PPE, for the state’s front-line health care workers;
- Leverage all emergency powers afforded by the statewide disaster declaration to facilitate surge production, order fulfillment, and expedited delivery of PPE;
- Work with experts in infection prevention and control, health care and supply chain industry, and others with strong input from front-line health care workers to explore alternative equipment of equal or superior quality to that of current medically approved PPE;
- Establish a web-based state clearinghouse to allow front-line health care workers in hospitals and all other patient care settings, including medical and dental practices of all sizes and locations, to submit their PPE needs in real time; and
- Encourage voluntary donation and redistribution of household and commercial stores of PPE in safe, usable condition.
“Cancer, heart disease, toothaches, childbirths, and broken arms do not stop during a global pandemic. Physicians, nurses, dentists, and other health care workers need your help,” the coalition said. “Every health care practice, community clinic, hospital, and other health care facility in our state will bear an intense load due to COVID-19, and we hope to work together swiftly to resolve the most pressing concerns.”
The Public Health Coalition comprises more than 30 health professional organizations and health-focused organizations, including TMA, that are dedicated to disease prevention and health promotion.
Remember, you can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.