Gov. Lamont says state’s healthcare workers don’t have enough PPE, local businesses, hospitals work to adapt to shortage and fill the need

Coronavirus

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — An emotional Governor Ned Lamont said in a Tuesday press conference that it breaks his heart that there isn’t enough personal protective gear for the hearth care workers treating COVID-19 patients.

For days, the governor has said the state is at the beginning of its surge in critically ill patients due to the coronavirus. But there is still a critical shortage of protective equipment for healthcare workers.

With the national stockpile of PPE gear empty, the governor says “we are on our own” in terms of getting it for hospitals.

But now local companies are trying to help.

Like nurses across the nation, Nurse Nancy LaMonica and her team at Bristol Health are sacrificing for their community.

Bristol has been well-stocked and well-prepared with protective equipment up until now. But even they say, while they can fill their immediate need, more will be needed to meet an anticipated surge.

Lisa DeMelis, Assistant Director Preoperative Services at Bristol explained that they are “in need of more machines for the papers and the hoods…we’re trying to order more and find companies that are making those.”

At other hospitals, Union Aft Connecticut says some of their members not given N-95 masks even when dealing with COVID-19 positive patients. They have seven nurses at two hospitals already out sidk.

Other health care systems have reported workers quarantined with the virus as well. It’s unclear if the cases have anything to do with the lack of PPE.

But necessity is the mother of invention.

Across Connecticut, small businesses are trying to meet the need.

Female-run Stick Fx says it has a prototype for a silicon mask that can elevate surgical masks to the safety standard of N-95 masks. John Hopkins has agreed to help with testing. Now, they need cash.

State Senator Norm Needleman has signed on to help, saying, “we need someone who’s a humanitarian, who wants to invest in this…We’re trying to get that initial production run so we can get 10-15,000 so people can have them in their hands in the next week or so.”

While it’s a race against time, Bristol Health says it feels great that so many people are trying to help.

RELATED: How hospital emergency rooms are adapting patient care during coronavirus pandemic

With the shortage of protective gear, Hartford Heathcare says they are being forced to change their behavior to make gear last longer.

Hartford Healthcare is now having employees use N95 masks only ‘where necessary.’ They are also limiting the exposure of their workers by reducing the number of trips into a patient’s room.

We’ve gotten very creative about using long IV tubing to keep the pumps outside the room to limit the number of trips in and out, and we’re trying to look at ways to use the ventilators in the same fashion so that we can control the ventilator from outside the room.

Dr. Samuel Pope/Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit for Hartford Hospital

So far, Hartford Healthcare has not yet had to put two patients on one ventilator. They did receive one of the frist major shipments of face shields manufactured by Ford.

RELATED: Hartford Healthcare officials talk innovative uses for ventilators to help more patients, plus facts/myths surrounding COVID-19

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