With additional stress placed on local and national health care resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nash UNC Health Care is asking for donations of some medical supplies and changing the timing of surgical procedures for some patients.
Nash UNC Health Care officials said in a statement released Tuesday that they especially need personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, for health care providers.
“The increasing need for medical supplies is putting a strain on the health care system as a whole and we are already feeling the effects of that strain here at Nash UNC,” Nash UNC Health Care President and CEO Lee Isley said in the statement. “We are working to ensure we have the appropriate supplies in order to protect our front-line staff with the personal protective equipment they need.”
The biggest needs include N95 masks, surgical masks (with and without shields), disposable gloves, disposable shoe covers, eye protection and protective gowns. Other needs include nasal swabs, disinfectant, hand sanitizer with more than 60 percent alcohol and hand soap.
As the coronavirus continues to spread to more rural areas, hospitals like Nash UNC are seeing an increase in the usage of those masks and other supplies, the press release said.
“We are concerned about the long-term integrity of the supply chain across the United States,” said Paul Mathews, director of materials management at Nash UNC Health Care. “Where we are seeing shortages in PPE now, we can see where other shortages may occur in the long-term if this outbreak doesn’t resolve soon.”
Mathews said it is difficult for suppliers to keep up with demand.
“Much of the equipment is made in different countries around the world that are also being hit by this global pandemic,” he said.
Nash County Assistant Director of Fire-Rescue Services and Emergency Management Brent Fisher said much the same thing Tuesday at a remote meeting of Nash County department heads. Fisher said that the county also is having trouble getting PPE supplies because everyone is in the same situation.
“Everyone is competing to get limited supplies from the same vendors,” he said.
Health care providers are working to conserve what they can. As part of that effort to preserve supplies at this critical time, Nash UNC Health Care will begin performing only priority, urgent and emergent procedures and surgical cases.
Nash UNC Health Care joins other major health care systems in the state and nation in making this very difficult decision, the statement from Nash UNC Health Care noted.
“As COVID-19 continues to spread across our state and region, we must do what is best for our patients while also serving as good stewards of the medical supplies and equipment that will be needed to care for very sick patients throughout this outbreak,” Isley said.
This means that some surgical cases will be delayed.
“Processes with clearly defined criteria were developed to ensure we continue to provide needed health care while also meeting the uncertain demands on our health care system associated with COVID-19,” Isley said. “Our surgeons are reviewing their cases carefully and evaluating cases in 10-day increments to determine which non-critical surgeries can be postponed. No surgery or procedure will be postponed that would cause harm to the patient if it is not done within the next four weeks.”
Patients will be contacted by their care team if their case is to be rescheduled, the statement said. Outpatient areas and related testing remain in operation at this time.
Kirby Slade, director of community relations at Nash UNC Health Care, said that some community groups and businesses already have reached out to the hospital about donating masks and other supplies to help mitigate the effect of lack of availability.
“We have set up a drop-off location for those in the community who want to donate medical supplies to us, including masks, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer and other supplies,” Slade said.
Slade also noted that they also would accept handmade masks and gowns. Specifications for those items will soon be released.
“We are humbled by the outpouring of support from our community and thank everyone who is helping us protect our patients and staff during this challenging time,” Isley said.
Supplies can be dropped off at the old Rocky Mount Eye building, across from Nash Medical Arts Mall on Nash UNC Health Care’s campus, between noon and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Anyone with questions regarding donations should contact Kirby Slade at Kirby.Slade@unchealth.unc.edu or at 962-8835.