Suppose you let the health workers fighting the CoVID-19 pandemic tell you a story. In that case, you will hear nothing but a grim tale – how lack of lifesaving medical supplies, especially PPEs (personal protective equipment), causes death among the front liners.
The stories across the social media and traditional news outlets are physicians and other medical workers talking about how to protect themselves when they ran out of gear. For instance, some healthcare workers wash and reuse their supposedly disposable PPEs. Some use trash bags as replacements for hospital gowns.
It is devastating that when supplies are most needed during times like this, health workers lack protective supplies. This keeps them from providing the best possible care to the patients.
This should have never happened to some hospitals if they have used the right PPE inventory management. With proper inventory management, hospitals would know how many PPEs they use at a particular time and replenish their supplies before it runs out.
Moreover, this will also help the manufacturers forecast, allowing them to make enough PPEs for their clients.
PPE shortage: the consequences
Distributing PPE doesn’t follow the right protocols that are designed to improve the control of infection. However, for many health workers, it is better than being not protected at all. Yet, it cannot keep the infection from spreading and causes a lot of otherwise avoidable consequences.
More healthcare workers get infected
Europe and Asia showed the world how COVID-19 causes excellent dangers to health workers. A few months since the pandemic began, China has recorded more than 3,000 infected physicians, and Italy has recorded more than twice as many. In Spain, around 14% of the infected were attributed to 5,400 health workers.
When the trained doctors and nurses get sick, healthcare systems will seek help from specialty and retired doctors. Doing so will negatively impact the quality and capacity of care.
More patient-to-patient transmission
Rationing PPE, the local and national health offices are putting the nurses and physicians at high risk of transmitting the virus from one patient to another. It is because these healthcare workers have to wear the same PPE that is supposed to be replaced between patient visits.
For instance, when the N-95 masks supply is deficient, most medical personnel have to wear masks until they break. N-95 masks are disposable and are intended for one-time use only. Some reports say that healthcare workers are wearing the same gown per patient room, and some have to reuse the PPE for more than a week.
Adding fuel to the fire is that the COVID-19 test result takes 13 days, leaving the healthcare workers unsure if their interaction with the patients poses a risk of transmission. Moreover, some health facilities deny COVID-19 testing to employees, directing them to other facilities, such as urgent-care centers, but reluctant to test.
PPE shortage and other crucial medical equipment put the health workers in a situation where they have to ignore one patient’s needs to serve the needs of others. Steps should be taken to keep the physicians from facing a terrible task of deciding who to treat or choose in isolation.
Putting these burdens on individual physicians could cause a life-ling and acute emotional toll. Burnout increases the stress not only on workers but on the hospitals as well. Studies show that physician burnout costs the US healthcare system $4.6 billion every year, and the costs double in unsafe patient care.
The increasing number of sick and exhausted healthcare workers and increased hospital transmission resulted in more sickness overall. As the hospitals are overwhelmed with more patients and working beyond their capacity, their resources like PPE and other critical supplies become scarcer.
It decreases the care quality and increases the risk of poor outcomes. If the healthcare workers weaken, all patients will suffer.
In times like this, when the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic disease, physicians and other healthcare workers need to make the harsh decision every time. This heightens the burden of care and spreads transmission risks, leading to remarkably high levels of burnout and disease.
This is why hospitals should use a smart PPE inventory management system to keep their supplies from running out and keep the healthcare workers protected. COVID-19 cannot be stopped if the health workers are at risk of being infected.
Moreover, the government must also do its best to advocate for increased supply availability. Failing to address the supplies’ scarcity could paralyze the healthcare system’s ability to keep on caring for sick patients.