As coronavirus cases begin to spike in Illinois, some medical professionals are concerned about a potential shortage of personal protective equipment as they look to combat the virus.
One of those professionals, an acute care registered nurse at a Chicago-area hospital, is voicing those concerns as she and her colleagues deal with dwindling supplies.
“It’s happening country-wide. It’s not just here,” the nurse, who did not want to be identified, said.
The nurse says that up until about two weeks ago, professionals had regular supplies of surgical masks on hand. The masks, respiratory-safe N-95 masks, are only supposed to be used once and thrown away, but now they’re being used multiple times because of supply shortages.
“We’re using these masks multiple times, and sometimes for up to five days in a row,” she said. “Where are the masks, and why don’t we make them here? It’s so necessary for our health and well-being as health care providers.”
NBC 5 spoke to the nurse after her shift tonight, where she began working with the first coronavirus cases at her hospital.
“I sat in a room for two and a half hours this morning, all geared up,” she said. “An N-95 mask, a face shield, a gown.”
The American Nurses Association is echoing similar concerns, referring to shortages of PPE that are forcing nurses to “reuse equipment or make their own, resulting in increasingly unsafe conditions for nurses and patients.”
The association is asking Congress to address the shortage, to conduct a study to identify the cause of systemic failures that have led to the shortage and to study the supply chain so that the shortages don’t occur again.
Until then, nurses are forced to take drastic measures to stay safe, and it’s a nerve-wracking experience.
“It’s not safe,” she said. “We’re not fully protecting ourselves as much as we can.”