By Marivir R. Montebon
The production of PPE must be 24/7 in order to protect nurses and doctors, especially with the surge of COVID19 cases expected this week.
New York – Nurses and medical staff here have reiterated the need for gloves, gowns, masks, and ventilators in order to protect themselves while attending to highly infectious COVID19 patients. New York, the US epicenter of the pandemic, is in crisis for these Personal Protective Equipment and ventilators as the contagion is expected to surge this week.
According to the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), current inventory may only be 1 percent of the projected need. In a letter to Gov. Cuomo on March 18, NYSNA said that New York would need a steady supply of N95 masks, surgical masks, reusable respirators, protective gowns, face shields, goggles and other similar equipment.
The production and distribution of PPE must be 24/7, said the nurses group, in order to respond to the surge of cases which is projected to happen in April and May.
The NYSNA requested for Cuomo’s emergency power to produce, procure and distribute PPE. “If our doctors and nurses are taken out of commission because they are themselves sickened, the hospitals will cease to function. It will demoralize the staff. In the midst of this crisis, the state needs to step up and implement a mandatory crash program to get these PPE produced on a 24/7 emergency basis. Loosening these protocols and standards is a recipe for disaster,” the statement read.
In his daily morning conference last week, Cuomo had responded that as governor he had no power to envoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) as only Pres. Trump can. But New York is receiving support from other states and the Federal government for the much needed logistics.
Lyn Roces (real name withheld), a Registered Nurse, have steadily expressed her advocacy for Pres. Trump to use his emergency powers through the DPA in order to hasten the production and distribution of PPE earlier on. “The frontliners must be equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to win the fight against this deadly virus. There are doctors and nurses who have died already. The healthcare workers must be protected,” said Roces.
Trump had finally used the DPA recently in order to boost production of PPE and other medical devices in the midst of mounting calls.
Filipino nurses working in two hospitals said that their hospital management have ordered them to use only one N95 mask for their shift of 12-15 hours. “The masks are being disinfected after our shift so that we can reuse them. That’s the reality,” said Faith (real name withheld).
As a medical protocol, disposable gowns, masks, and gloves must be discarded after a single encounter with every patient. “We did this before the coronavirus pandemic. Changed PPEs after every patient. But now, we cannot. Our supply is low or maybe management was hoarding in order to ration it. I was told to use my N95 for the whole shift. A few weeks ago, some of my colleagues had to wear those black garbage bags because the gowns ran out,” said Mercy Tesoro.
Nurses unions such as the National Nurses United and the American Nurses Association have petitioned for the production and delivery of PPEs in the fight against the pandemic.
The NNU had run a nation-wide petition asking Trump “to protect the nurses.” A member of the Philippine Nurses Association of America and the National Nurses United, asking for anonymity, she’s been earnestly seeking for nurses’ protection to have the PPE that they need. “There are so many Filipino nurses in the frontlines. I want our concerns to be heard,” she quipped. (Photos courtesy of Queens.com, Grace Labaguis, and Tess Abutanmo-dela Cruz)