Virginia’s emergency network for health facilities across the commonwealth is a one-way street when it comes to personal protective equipment. Member facilities can enter in what they need — hand sanitizer, for instance, or surgical masks — and six regional health care coalitions, which partner with the Virginia Health Department and Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, will try to provide it.
“We don’t know what their stockpile looks like,” said Morris Funk, president and CEO of Beth Sholom Senior Living in Richmond. What he does know is that the need at Beth Sholom is becoming increasingly dire. The 350-person retirement community, which includes independent and assisted living along with a nursing home, is down to its last 12 bottles of hand sanitizer.
The lack of transparency is causing concern, particularly among nursing homes, who worry they won’t be a priority, and primary care doctors, who don’t appear on the network’s distribution list at all.
Funk said the facility is working feverishly to source more equipment, checking in with suppliers three times a day and sending employees to Walmart and Target in search of essentials such as disinfecting wipes. So far, they haven’t had much success. McKesson, a medical supply company, is limiting Beth Sholom to small orders — a few boxes of masks or wipes at a time, Funk said. Staff are resorting to mixing their own hand sanitizer with aloe and a few bottles of rubbing alcohol.
“Given the potential of coronavirus — thank God we don’t have any cases today,” Funk said. “But with the potential of having a significant number of individuals infected, we would not have enough personal protective equipment to meet the needs of our caregiving staff and to protect residents.”
It’s a nationwide problem as health care providers continue to battle the growing pandemic. The latest numbers from VDH show 290 cases across Virginia with 45 hospitalizations and seven deaths. State health officials haven’t provided the exact number of cases in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, but there are at least six, including four cases at Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Richmond — right down the road from Beth Sholom, Funk said.
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.