JEFFERSONVILLE — As the U.S. faces shortages of personal protective equipment for first responders and healthcare workers amid COVID-19, a local nonprofit has stepped up to help ensure safety for those on the front lines in Southern Indiana.
On Thursday, Louisville-based global health supplier SOS donated more than $40,000 worth of surgical masks, gloves and scrubs to be used by healthcare workers at Clark Memorial Health and local first responder agencies in Clark County.
The gift is part of more than $500,000 the organization, which usually redistributes supplies to impoverished developing countries, has provided to Louisville-area hospitals and teams. The donation will mean a big financial loss to the nonprofit, but Denise Sears, president and CEO of SOS, said it was clear they should be sent into the community.
“It was a unanimous decision amongst our small team that we knew the right thing to do would be to deliver these supplies to people in need,” she said during the news conference. “I really believe that if you do the right thing, in the end you’ll be OK.”
The personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies come at a time when their use is increasing locally and nationally — both as more patients are being tested, and as more protocols are put in place for safety. First responders in the area are suiting up with the equipment when attending to runs that may require them to administer medical attention or otherwise be very close to a person who potentially may have the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Clark Memorial has within the past month begun implementing requirements that all staff wear the PPE when working within the hospital properties, and staff are treating all new patients who come through the ER as if they may be positive for the disease.
As a result, Craig Incorbia, director of supplies at the hospital, said use has increased about four times what it was pre-coronavirus. What workers used to use in a month is going in about a week.
“Every shipment we get from the community or our regular suppliers is very important to our team members,” he said. “We have a call every day to identify exactly where we are with particular items whether it’s the N95 surgical mask, isolation gowns, gloves.
“We were a little nervous at times but we were able to every day make sure our team members have the PPE that they need to take care of these patients.”
Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said the donation ensures more days of protection for the men and women who work on the front lines to help keep the community safe.
“I cant say enough of a thank you for their donation,” he said. “The amount of bravery that’s going on behind these doors and with the first responders out at the scene is astonishing and we have to do everything we can to keep them safe.”
As of Thursday morning, the Indiana State Department of Health had confirmed at least 96 positive cases among Clark County residents since testing began in March, and 88 in Floyd County. There have been seven deaths confirmed in Clark and three in Floyd.
Staff at Clark Memorial Health are seeing between 25 and 30 patients a day for COVID-19 symptoms or testing, although some are ruled out and not all require hospitalization. Of the hospital’s 18 ventilators, about seven were in use as of this week, Yazel said. While not an issue yet, this supply is something health leaders have their eye on.
“A lot of things you’re hearing currently are concerns here,” Yazel said. “We have a great local response plan but there are some fixed obstacles that we’re running up against if we get a big surge.”
He said he feels that Clark County has done a good job of getting as prepared as possible for the virus to reach the area.
“We had two months at least of lag time before it reached our area,” he said. “We tried to learn from what was happening across the world and other parts of the country, learn lessons from what they were doing and try to anticipate at this stage what did they need to try to get ahead of the curve that way.
“We’ve always been operating on the assumption that we might have to just take care of things locally and that’s what we’re trying to do...and donations like this are huge for that goal.”