PPE during this historic time of a global pandemic.

Many of us find it unbelievable that we are living in the historic time of a global pandemic. As COVID-19 continues to ebb and flow throughout the world, ongoing concerns within the healthcare industry focus on the availability of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

If you did not know what PPE was before now, you are certainly aware of the need of equipment that assists us all to reduce the risk of the transmission of COIVD. In a setting for healthcare, there is a significant increase in the need for surgical masks and gowns to protect front-line workers.

If you did not know what PPE was before now, you are certainly aware of the need of equipment that assists us all to reduce the risk of the transmission of COIVD.

Anticipating the PPE needs of your workforce

There are several levels to a typical supply chain and each step up the chain stresses the supply and availability of PPE to those companies that rely on them.

Conventional supply refers to the normal and easily trackable use of supplies. Prior to COID-19, most companies could easily track the utilization of surgical masks and gowns. As increased awareness of the pandemic occurred, companies initiated contingent supply planning to anticipate the needs of their workforce. Using the initial use and building up a percentage increase of supply, most agencies felt that they were prepared, based on current information and utilization of other parts of the world, for the needs of their own teams.

As many have realized, contingent supplies of surgical masks and gowns quickly moved to crisis levels as the pandemic crippled some areas of the country. PPE for front line workers became highly variable; some areas of the country seemed to have plenty, while other areas like New York, had vast gaps in their ability to procure what was needed for patient care.

As many have realized, contingent supplies of surgical masks and gowns quickly moved to crisis levels as the pandemic crippled some areas of the country.

Ensuring that the proper masks and gowns are used for the right procedures is imperative

As the epidemic continues to change how we gather, work and care for patients, so should our plan for mitigating our supplies. While some research shows that the availability of PPE has improved, as outbreaks spread and COVID-19 outbreaks continue, we can expect to see ongoing needs for supply chain improvement.

To improve and conserve the masks and surgical gowns that are currently within your own system, ensuring that the proper equipment is used for the right procedures is imperative. Breaking down which gowns are the best for specific protocols, (using a disposable gown instead of a surgical gown to clean a room) may improve the supply conditions. In the past it was easy to switch from one type of gown to another for tasks if supplies were low, or if staff was not aware of which masks were the best to use in different situations. Given the risks are much higher now, this is the time to develop specific educational processes instructing medical teams when to use specific types of PPE and what each type is clearly safe for.

Every team member has an impact on ensuring that the supply of PPE remains stable – with education and ongoing monitoring of supply processes, each company can improve the accessibility of PPE required. As noted in much of the information available in COVID-19 updates, manufacturing has also begun to ramp up to meet the ongoing need for PPE. As companies change over to creating ventilators, masks and hand sanitizer, the supply system should begin to level out helping to decrease concerns regarding access to much needed equipment.

Given the risks are much higher now, this is the time to develop specific educational processes instructing medical teams when to use specific types of PPE and what each type is clearly safe for.

Fraudulent PPE became a major factor

Another area of concern was the onset of fraudulent companies advertising PPE equipment at discount rates or availability of products that they did not have in supply. As increased panic regarding PPE occurred, fake masks and supply chain access ran rampant causing some companies to find themselves spending money on product that was never received or was defective. The risks to both patients and practitioners using “fake” equipment could have caused increase spread of COVID.

It is critical for everyone to be sure that equipment supply and demand retains a steady pace, and that companies are not duped into purchasing bogus equipment. We must ensure a means of PPE quality control so that COVID-19 does not continue to needlessly spread.