A national shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is feared as the COVID-19 virus spreads. The West Piedmont Health District (WPHD) gathered surplus inventory of PPE to share with partners who provide hands-on work with potentially infected patients.
Free clinics, home health caregivers and other partners are receiving PPE according to their needs. Gowns, gloves, masks and face shields were loaded into cartons for distribution to these partners. Several picked up their supplies within hours of notification.
Local Health Emergency Planner, Jeanette Losee, said that she retained about 10 percent of the supplies for use by the health departments in the district, but everything else in inventory is going to those on the front line.
“We all have to work together to get through this pandemic,” Losee said. “It is unlikely that our staff will need more PPE than we have set aside for their use.”
One reason for this is that staff duties have shifted in response to the pandemic.
“Nursing has scaled back our clinical services (e.g., family planning, travel vaccines, and TB screenings for employment) based on guidance from the state office so that we may assist our district epidemiologist in the COVID-19 response,” said Verna Burnette, Nurse Manager for the WPHD.
“Our role in public health is to complete contact tracing for confirmed cases, work with cases and their contacts to institute appropriate isolation and/or quarantine agreements, and to monitor contacts for onset of illness. We also have a tremendous role in assisting community businesses and organizations — long-term care facilities and daycares, for example, to implement CDC and VDH infection control guidelines related to COVID-19,” she said.
During health emergencies like the one currently facing the region, the health department’s role is not hands-on patient care, Burnette explained. Instead, the local health departments work to identify outbreaks and collect and curate data in a way that enables front-line health professionals to make informed decisions.
Bassett Family Practice, Bernard Health Care Center, Caring Hearts Free Clinic, PATHS, Patrick County Family Care, Patrick County Urgent Care, Team Nurse and Tri Area Health Center all will receive the PPE.