NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — One of the great challenges of battling coronavirus is the law of supply and demand. Right now, we have more demand than supply.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a challenge for many health care facilities as their supplies of specific items dwindle, including gowns, face shields and gloves.
The most in-demand item are masks such as N95 respirators.
Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital President and CEO Tom Orsini told 10 On Your Side his hospital is fine as far as its supply of PPE — except N95 masks.
“We are fine with PPE except for the N95 mask,” he said. The N95 respirator is superior for infectious disease control because they fit more tightly and block out smaller particles that surgical masks don’t.
“This mask protects our respiratory system better than the others,” Orsini said. “It is very common that we have patients who have infection.”
Orsini says he doesn’t have enough, and his supplier doesn’t have the inventory to get him any,
“In fact, we found these at Lowes on Military Highway. We went to Lowe’s and bought everything they had… cases of them,” he said.
We were curious, so after interviewing Orsini we went to that Lowe’s and found bare shelves where the N95 masks were, along with other protective masks. A store clerk told us they’ve been out for two weeks, maybe longer.
So desperate for the mask, Sentara Norfolk General asked the public to donate them to the hospital if they have any.
The other essential medical device Orsini needs is the actual coronavirus test. Lake Taylor has had no need to test any of its current 220 patients because they have no symptoms, Orsini said. As a precaution, Orsini shut down the hospital to all outside visitors.
Fred Feller, a patient, is 85 years old. He has no symptoms, and has never been tested. He is about to finish four weeks of rehab, and goes home Saturday.
“I am more concerned about the outcome of the virus, and getting back on track (the country) again,” Feller said.
Orsini is not comforted by not needing tests. He’s looking into the unknown future, and doesn’t like the fact he can’t get any more coronavirus tests,
“I am looking for prevention, of taking my patients who may test positive and putting them into the acute setting… and caring for them here… I can’t test all of these patients I have now, if I needed to test them. This is where the supply chain has broken down as far as supplying of the test,” he said.