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APIC Survey Reveals Depth of PPE Shortages

Facilities are operating under crisis standards of care as the pandemic rages on.

Published: December 9, 2020

DELAYED DISPOSAL DELAYED DISPOSAL Many healthcare professionals are forced to reuse masks and respirators during the recent surge.

The majority of U.S. hospitals and healthcare systems overwhelmed with COVID-19 response efforts are concerned about being able to provide safe patient care with scarce supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), according to a national survey of more than 1,000 infection prevention experts.

Many facilities are operating under PPE crisis standards of care says the survey, which the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) conducted from Oct. 22 to Nov. 5. Facilities are attempting to compensate for short supplies by reusing or extending the life of single-use PPE, according to APIC. Roughly three quarters of respondents say their facilities allow staff to reuse respirators or masks either five times or "as many times as possible" before getting a new one.

APIC also asked infection preventionists about possible medical supply shortages and capacity issues during the current flu season. Nearly three in four were strongly or somewhat concerned about their facility's surge capacity, and more than half were strongly or somewhat concerned about their facility's ability to provide safe care. Nearly four in five were worried about the impact of supply shortages, with 84% more concerned about shortages compared with previous years.

"It's disheartening to see our healthcare system strained and implementing PPE crisis standards of care more than eight months into the pandemic," says APIC President Connie Steed, MSN, RN, CIC, FAPIC. "Many of us on the frontlines are waiting for the other shoe to drop. With the upcoming flu season, we implore people to do what they can to keep safe, protect our healthcare personnel and lessen the strain on our healthcare system."

Joe Paone

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