Latest battle healthcare workers face curing COVID-19 outbreak is a lack of PPE
Without immediate action, limited supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other lifesaving equipment will cause greater loss of life and increase the toll from COVID-19, warns the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). AACN represents more than half a million acute and critical care nurses, many of whom are caring for patients with COVID-19.
“The lack of availability of PPE represents a clear and present danger to nurses and other healthcare professionals caring for patients diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19,” said Megan Brunson, MSN, RN, CNL, CCRN-CSC, president of the AACN board of directors. “For nearly two decades, Americans have rated nursing as the most trusted profession. We are now trusting our leaders, our neighbors and all Americans to protect the healthcare workforce and save lives.”
Providing adequate protection and lifesaving equipment is crucial to change the course of the COVID-19 crisis.
Everyone has an obligation to alleviate the strain on the healthcare system and save lives:
- The federal government must immediately use its authority to enact the full Defense Production Act and order the rapid production and distribution of PPE
- Businesses should donate any excess PPE inventory to hospitals and other healthcare settings
- Manufacturers able to produce PPE should begin to do so now to help increase the inventory nationwide
- Individuals should heed the orders to shelter at home and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus and further protect themselves, their communities and the healthcare workforce
Brunson added, “The failure to provide the necessary PPE to nurses and our healthcare colleagues puts the entire healthcare system at risk. Working without this equipment places nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists and others at an inordinately high risk to contract the virus. If this occurs, not only would it exact an intolerable individual toll, but it would leave an already strained healthcare system more depleted of lifesaving caregivers. The end result will be an incalculable loss of lives.”
AACN President-elect Elizabeth Bridges, PhD, RN, CCNS, FCCM, FAAN, said, “This pandemic is quickly depleting supplies and causing staffing shortages. We have rapidly moved from contingency planning to a crisis orientation, and the peak of the national surge in patients is still to come. Adequate supplies will ensure we use evidence-based levels of protection and care, with long-established guidelines for PPE use, ventilators and other equipment.”
Concerns about a lack of PPE and other equipment have grown as the number of cases continues to rise and supplies have dwindled. On March 18, AACN followed up a meeting at the White House with a letter emphasizing the urgent need to supply nurses with resources necessary to provide safe, effective care. In addition, AACN and other leading critical care professional and scientific societies have issued a joint statement urging the federal government to take immediate action to address the production and distribution of PPE and lifesaving equipment.
The Critical Care Societies Collaborative is composed of the four major professional and scientific societies whose members care for America’s critically ill and injured — AACN, American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), the American Thoracic Society (ATS), and the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). They warn that the failure to provide the necessary PPE supplies, ventilators and other lifesaving equipment puts the healthcare system, individual healthcare workers and patients at risk.
“Without it, not only will thousands of lives be lost, but this crisis will be prolonged, forever changing the healthcare system, placing a heavy burden on the nation’s economy and the financial well-being of its citizens,” the statement notes. “To further protect the well-being of the United States against COVID-19, we must ensure the safety of the 18 million plus physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and other healthcare workers.”