HHS inspector general says hospitals have severe equipment shortages

A new report from the Health and Human Services Inspector General found that hospitals are experiencing major shortages of equipment needed to fight coronavirus. 

The data is based on a survey done from March 23-27 at 323 hospitals across the country. Many hospitals reported that they don’t have enough N95 masks, gowns and other supplies that protect medical personnel from infection.

In some cases, hospitals are turning to homemade cloth masks or construction masks, the Hill reported, which do not protect as well as N95s. Getting help from the government stockpile isn’t always useful either, since at least one hospital has said that 2,300 masks it received had rotted straps and could not be used.

Coronavirus tests are another area of severe shortage, the hospitals said, according to the report. A lack of tests or long wait times for results are forcing hospitals to keep patients unnecessarily while waiting.

Hospital personnel anxious

Hospitals also said they were competing with other states to order scarce supplies and that rising prices are making procurement difficult, according to the Hill. The report suggested that more coordination by the federal government could prevent some of these problems.

“The level of anxiety among staff is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” one hospital administrator said, the Hill reported.

It’s understandable given the current conditions of reusing masks that are not meant to be reused and wondering how full of coronavirus patients hospitals will become in the next few weeks.

No hospitals have yet said that they don’t have enough ventilators for patients, and thousands of ventilators are currently being stockpiled to help hard-hit states and localities.

Will hospitals be overwhelmed?

New data suggests that previous predictions of hospitals being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients may have been overblown. In some states like Florida, fewer people who have tested positive for coronavirus are needing hospitalization, which means that burdens on hospitals are lighter than expected.

A report called the Murray model had predicted 100,000 hospitalizations nationwide by April 1, but only 30,000 were reported at that point, the American Spectator reported. In New York, there were 18,000 hospitalizations where 50,000 were predicted.

In more hopeful news, the New York curve may already be flattening, the Spectator further reported. Hospital admissions fell to about half of previous numbers from Friday to Saturday, from 1095 to just 574.

With 90% of the country shut down, it appears that mitigation may be working to flatten the curve enough to save a lot of people’s lives.

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