ROCK SPRINGS — Even though Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County has placed numerous orders for Personal Protective Equipment, they are seeing a shortfall in supplies.
According to Kim White, MHSC’s Incident Commander for MHSC COVID-19 Preparedness and Clinical Documentation Specialist, the hospital has been having a difficult time getting PPE supplies, especially, N95 masks.
“We have placed numerous orders at the very beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic and throughout with no luck at getting any orders filled,” White said. “Many of the orders have been cancelled by the vendors because the simply can’t fill them.”
To address the shortfall, MHSC has different options available in order to protect its employees.
“We have been able to get some half-face respirators and have recently purchased reusable N95 masks, in which the filters need to be changed out,” White said.
Usually, the hospital employees are protected by one-time use N95 masks. However, due to a nation-wide shortage, the Food and Drug Administration has approved using the VPRO sterilization process to sanitize the reusable N95 masks.
“This is the same process used to sterilize instruments used in the operating room, White explained. “We have been using the VPRO process to be able to prolong the use of our N95 masks at this time.”
Even though a lot of focus has been on the masks, the hospital has seen other shortages.
“We talk about N95 masks a lot because they are vital for protecting our staff, but there are also other PPE items, such as gowns, that are in short supply,” she said. “Thankfully, we have been able to secure reusable gowns to help protect our staff.”
The hospital has been implementing social-distancing rules since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, they realized they needed make adjustments.
Over the last couple months, White said they have noticed the need to increase requirements at the hospital, such as staying six feet apart and wearing masks.
“We have found that one of our biggest areas of concern was in our cafeteria where we had many staff members gathered around one table,” White said. “Should one of those staff members test positive, everyone at the table would be quarantined by public health based on the close contact criteria.”
With this in mind, the hospital has removed chairs from the cafeteria to meet those requirements. Only one person per table will be allowed in the cafeteria.
“We have also had to be stronger with our mask wearing policy,” she said.
Changing some of these things can be hard on the hospital’s employees, but White said it’s the best way to protect them.
“They are not easy changes to make. We are all very social people and we really are a family here. To be separated from each other is not an easy thing, and it can be heart breaking,” White said. “My hope is that our staff realizes that these changes are being made to protect them not only from COVID, but also from the possibility of the quarantine.”