US Hospitals Face 'Severe' Shortages Of Tests And Protective Equipment: Inspector General

As the US death toll from coronavirus tops 10,000 - the third highest in the world, an inspector general report from the Department of Health and Human Services has found that the country is experiencing serious shortages of tests and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Monday report described the test kit shortages as "severe" and shortfalls in PPE as "widespread" - compounding an already dangerous situation.

"Hospitals reported that widespread shortages of PPE put staff and patients at risk," reads the report, which consists of interviews with administrators from 323 hospitals chosen at random from across the country between March 23 and 27.

To make due, healthcare providers are turning to homemade or construction masks, as inadequate government supplies have resulted in desperate measures.

Hospitals said they are turning in some cases to construction masks or homemade masks, which they worried put staff at risk. 

Supplies from government stockpiles did not always help. One hospital reported receiving 2,300 crucial N95 masks from a state stockpile, only to find they were not usable because the elastic bands had rotted. Another hospital said its last two shipments from a federal agency contained protective equipment that had expired in 2010. -The Hill

"The level of anxiety among staff is like nothing I’ve ever seen," said one hospital administrator.

Administrators also report disarray and rising prices due to so many entities competing for limited supplies of equipment.

"Hospitals often stated that they were in competition with other providers for limited supplies, and that government intervention and coordination could help reconcile this problem at the national level to provide equitable distribution of supplies throughout the country," the report reads, adding: "Hospitals reported that severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff," it added - while noting that test results for COVID-19 often take seven days or more, meaning hospitals are using beds and equipment for potentially negative patients while waiting on the results.

What's more, care facilities have been receiving conflicting guidance from state and federal authorities.

Lastly, and similar to what we've seen in Italy - anticipated ventilator shortages are going to force hospitals to limit who gets to use one.

"Hospitals anticipated that ventilator shortages would pose difficult decisions about ethical allocation and liability, although at the time of our survey no hospital reported limiting ventilator use," reads the report.