CHI Mercy Medical Center is now rationing masks for health care providers, after 5,000 masks were used over a three-day period this week.
The News-Review received a copy Friday of the following notice that hospital officials sent to staff members Wednesday:
“Physicians and Clinical Staff: New Protocols for Masks Effective Immediately:
To ensure that we conserve supplies, new masking protocols took effect today, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, at 4 p.m.
We are following the practices of other CHI hospitals and will issue one mask to each clinician per day. Staff will be provided a new mask if their mask becomes soiled. All masks will be managed by leadership or a designee. Please speak with your department leader or manager.
Why are we doing this? Our supplies of masks dropped by 5,000 masks since Monday 3/16”
Hospital spokeswoman Kathleen Nickel said the masks were not stolen. It was just the rate of mask usage had increased.
“We monitor supplies daily and a significant amount changed. We have now instituted a centralized process for all PPE. We are also following CDC policies for PPE. Our goal is to keep our patients and our staff safe and to ensure that we are able to continue to care for our community,” Nickel said.
She said the new protocols follow a practice that has now become standard in hospitals across the country.
The Centers for Disease Control is recommending extended face mask use because of a nationwide shortage of masks.
Nickel didn’t have data on how many masks are ordinarily used per day at the hospital. But she said before the new rule was put in place more people were using the masks than usual, including visitors, patients, registration staff and more who would not ordinarily have worn the masks.
“We have been strongly encouraged by State officials, DPHN and our system to conserve PPE, which is why we came out with our new protocols. It is also why we are limiting visitors,” Nickel said in an email.
PPE stands for personal protective equipment.
Mercy, and Douglas Public Health network have started a PPE drive. They’re seeking masks, gloves and gowns for medical providers across the county.
People who have PPE items in unopened containers can contact Mercy Foundation at 541-677-4818 to donate. Homemade masks are not being accepted.
Douglas County Public Health Administrator Bob Dannenhoffer said the county has urged providers to cancel elective surgery, and has contacted dentists, veterinarians and others who may be willing to donate masks.
The PPE drive is strictly voluntary.
“We’re not forcing anybody to do anything,” he said.
They’re also looking for alternative types of PPE that could be useful, such as personal protective respirators used in other industries, he said.