By contributor Marc Monseau
As cases of COVID-19 increase in New Jersey, local hospitals are seeking donations of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for front line healthcare workers.
The requests do not reflect supply shortages but come as local health systems prepare for a potential surge in patients amid a rapid uptick in COVID-19 cases statewide. On Sunday, the New Jersey Department of Health reported that the total number of confirmed cases in the state rose by 2,252 to 13,386, while the number of residents who died of complications from COVID-19 rose by 21 to a total of 161.
“Our supplies vary by item,” said Jennifer McGowan-Smith, spokesperson for Trenton-based St, Francis Medical Center in an e-mail. “Through the efforts of our parent organization, Trinity Health, we have an adequate number of supplies at this time. However, we are trying to preserve as much as we can for a possible surge in patients. Our request for public donations helps our readiness efforts for a possible surge.”
St. Francis, like other healthcare systems in Central New Jersey, is seeking a range of personal protective equipment and supplies, including plastic goggles, face masks, and alcohol-based sanitizer.
Penn Medicine Princeton Health likewise has enough supplies but is also accepting donations. According to Princeton Health spokesperson Andy Williams, the Plainsboro-based hospital is seeking PPE that is unused and in its original packaging, including surgical masks, N95 respirator masks, disposable, water-resistant gowns or coveralls, hand sanitizer, protective eyewear, and gloves.
Williams added that the medical center’s foundation also set up a COVID-19 emergency response fund for people who want to donate resources to patients recovering from the disease, or short-term financial assistance and emotional support for healthcare workers. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, which is also seeking donations of PPE, has established a similar emergency response fund for donations to support their comprehensive emergency care efforts.
Capital Health System spokesperson Kate Stier said the healthcare system, which operates medical centers in Hopewell, Trenton and Hamilton, is accepting donations of protective equipment including N95 face masks, full-face plastic shields, plastic goggles, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
“Right now, we’re looking for more hand sanitizer for our EMS teams,” said Stier. She pointed out that while the EMS teams currently have sanitizer, the system is seeking additional donations given the anticipated need.
The donation requests from area healthcare systems come as the State of New Jersey ramps-up its efforts to coordinate the distribution of essential supplies and resources statewide.
On March 26, Governor Murphy announced an executive order requiring any business, non-hospital health care facility, or institution of higher learning in possession of PPE, ventilators, respirators, or anesthesia machines, to submit that information to the state by end of day on Friday. On Saturday, Governor Murphy directed healthcare facilities to report data concerning both capacity and supplies to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management daily.
“We must work within our health care networks to ensure that we are properly disbursing the personal protective equipment we receive from the national stockpile and donations proactively,” Murphy said in a statement on Saturday. “Today’s executive order will allow us to more efficiently and effectively manage the flow of personal protective equipment as hospitals begin expanding their capacities to meet the needs of more COVID-19 patients and allow us to have constantly up-to-date data on bed capacity throughout the state.”
Capital Health’s Stier said that in response to Governor Murphy’s order, the healthcare system is currently inventorying all PPE equipment to send an account to the state. Initial requests to other healthcare systems for a response to Murphy’s directive to report capacity and supplies to the State’s OEM went unreturned as of publication time.
Prior to the governor’s order on Saturday, McGowan-Smith at St Francis Medical Center explained that the hospital already provides a daily report on its PPE inventory, “to both our parent organization Trinity Health and the New Jersey Hospital Association.”