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By Gary Evans, Medical Writer
With a national survey of hospitals finding “dire shortages” in personal protective equipment (PPE), the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) demands the federal government act to protect both patients and frontline healthcare workers.
Representing thousands of infection preventionists (IPs) throughout the healthcare system, APIC issued a call to action along with its survey results at a March 27, 2020, press conference.
“APIC is urging the federal government to act now to identify and secure critical personal protective equipment, disinfectants, and especially respirators,” said APIC CEO Katrina Crist, MBA, CAE. "IPs across the country are reporting dire shortages of respirators, masks, gowns, and other supplies needed to protect patients and healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.”
APIC speakers called for the federal government to issue clear communication about the pandemic, release stockpiled PPE, and ramp up production of needed PPE.
The APIC survey of IPs was conducted between March 23 and March 25, netting 1,140 responses. Of those, 233 (20%) reported their facilities have no respirators and an additional 317 (28%) said they were “almost out.” Nearly half (49%) of the respondents said they do not have enough face shields and 13% are completely out. Regarding mask supply, nearly one-third (31%) of respondents are almost out or completely out.
APIC called for immediate activation of the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that gives the federal government broad powers to direct production of critical materials.
“The federal government must act now to produce more PPE and coordinate distribution where it is needed most,” said APIC president Connie Steed, MSN, RN, CIC, FAPIC. “Every minute wasted puts more lives at risk. We are asking healthcare providers to risk their own health and their families’ health to care for us.”
Supplies in the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile have been dispensed in some areas, but the general consensus is that these reserves will not be sufficient and new production on a mass scale is needed to meet the novel coronavirus threat. APIC sought clarity on this issue and other aspects of the pandemic response.
“There seems to be some confusion about the distribution and even in some pockets of the country, how to get access to the stockpile,” Steed said.
Crist added, “We are asking for clear communication. We need clarity on when the supplies are coming — when and where. So, in addition to asking the federal government to use all of the powers at their disposal to increase the supply, especially of respirators, we need clear communication.”