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Providers Urge State To Stock Up On PPE For Second Wave

Janice McLaughlin demonstrates how to don and doff a medical visor during a training session on personal protective equipment at Tufts Medical Center. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Janice McLaughlin demonstrates how to don and doff a medical visor during a training session on personal protective equipment at Tufts Medical Center. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Physician groups, hospitals and nurses told senators Monday that as policy leaders prepare for a possible second wave of the coronavirus in the fall the state should be thinking about how it can play a role in ensuring personal protective equipment isn't in short supply.

The health care leaders told legislators that in addition to the state developing a stockpile that could be bought into by providers if supplies run low, the state should also be thinking about securing a supply chain now to avoid the bidding wars that providers and states fought early in the pandemic.

"For medical practices right now, PPE is the utilities and although it's not what the state has done in the past, it's an important one," said Dr. David Rosman, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

"This is our moment," Rosman said, pointing out the lull in the spread of the virus.

The Senate convened a health care listening session on Monday to hear from providers, hospitals and others about the impact of COVID-19 and ways the Legislature could help. Lawmakers were told that making the expanded use of telehealth permanent and codifying an executive order that waived the need for prior authorization from insurers before doctors could treat patients were top priorities.

But at least a half dozen hospital executive and physicians all circled back to personal protective equipment.

Dr. Steven Strongwater, president and CEO of Atrius Health, said smaller practices have a lot more trouble securing the PPE they need than larger hospitals.

"We need to move away from real time inventory management to having a reserve capacity and the ability to surge," Strongwater said.

"I'd like to point out the state had as much trouble as you did finding PPE, and it's wasn't for lack of trying," said Sen. Cindy Friedman.

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