optimize PPE

Optimize PPE Supplies During the Pandemic and Flu Season

Coronavirus cases are climbing again, and experts suggest the sudden surge may be the “second wave” they’ve been warning of for months. According to the New York Times, the daily average of new cases in the past week is in excess of 75,000 cases, 41 percent higher than the average just two weeks ago.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is once again in short supply, especially in nursing homes, with more than a quarter of nursing homes reporting a shortage during the latest reporting period.

As if things weren’t bad enough, there’s a new threat on the horizon: the flu. According to estimates from the CDC, last year’s flu season saw 410,000-740,000 hospitalizations and as many as 62,000 deaths.

With the pandemic surging and flu season knocking on the door, it’s more important than ever for healthcare facilities and long-term care facilities to optimize their PPE supplies.

CDC Strategies to Optimize PPE

During the pandemic and flu season, it is expected that PPE will be in short supply. Therefore, the CDC has provided “surge capacity” optimization strategies that can be implemented sequentially.

  • Conventional capacity indicates the normal baseline. These are strategies a facility has in place on a day-to-day basis.
  • Contingency capacity includes strategies a facility can implement when PPE is (or is expected to be) in short supply.
  • Crisis capacity provides strategies that may not be in line with the U.S. standard of care, but are meant to temporarily maintain some semblance of protection until additional PPE can be procured.

To illustrate, we can use facemasks as an example. In a conventional capacity scenario, all existing facemask protocol must be followed to the letter.

As supplies dwindle and the facility moves into contingency capacity, the facility may employ strategies such as only providing masks to symptomatic patients or allowing masks to be used for extended periods of time.

If crisis capacity is reached, the facility may need to put drastic measures in place, such as reusing masks, using them beyond their shelf life, or utilizing face shields instead.

As PPE inventory returns to normal, standard practices should resume.

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