Personal Protective Equipment at Wilshire During the Season of COVID-19
An Update of the ins and outs of Personal Protective Wear from Wilshire’s PPE Queen, Janice Sanderfer, RN, PHN, MSN, and the importance of staying innovative and resilient.
As we begin the fifth month of our collective and complicated relationship to COVID-19, we know that the more information we have, the more confidently we can engage with our community.
We sat down to talk with Wilshire’s very own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Queen, Janice Sanderfer, RN, PHN, MSN, also known as our Director of Quality and Compliance, to hear how our clinical staff in Wilshire Home Health and Wilshire Hospice have coped with the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 and found ways to be innovative and resilient.
Takes us back to before COVID-19. What was Wilshire’s relationship with PPE?
We used to be able to order and access PPE quite easily; every one of our staff members always had at least one N95 mask they were fitted for, which we typically only need a N95 if we have a Tuberculosis patient on our services- which is rare. Gowns, gloves, thermometers, hand sanitizer- all of it was easily accessible. Earlier in the year, we had the foresight to order as much as we could when we first realized we had the potential to have COVID-19 patients.
How has COVID-19 changed our supply and demand of PPE?
Everything changed once New York’s big outbreak happened. Their outbreak launched a demand for the other 49 states who wanted to be as proactive as possible. Immediately, the medical suppliers that we use switched to an allotment style of ordering, basing the allotment on how much PPE you received off of what you had previously ordered and your quantity of patients. This is how they judged who gets how much PPE, in order to be fair, with hospitals taking priority. Because we weren’t able to get all that we needed, we just kept ordering and kept a close eye on our N95 masks and other supplies. Over time our storage of stocked PPE has multiplied, even taken over a whole room! We’ve had to get creative with our supplies, what we prioritize and how we use them, while still keeping our staff and patients as safe as possible. Being able to think innovatively and expansively gives us confidence as we face the unknown of what is to come.
How is Wilshire paying for the increased PPE supplies needed at this time?
PPE is not reimbursed by Medicare or insurance. So, Wilshire is covering the cost of all extra PPE we’ve needed throughout this pandemic.
Our budget has had to evolve quickly during this time and we’ve had to order 100% more PPE than we usually would. But we’ve been fortunate. The financial support of our community has allowed us to extend our PPE budget to cover this increase.
PPE is a big problem for everyone. We’ve been pretty ingenious with it all- we’ve even made some of our own face shields! It’s not just Home Health and Hospice clinical staff that have needed PPE, across our agencies there are needs for PPE, including at the Hope Chest Thrift Store that has needed supplies to prepare for reopening.
Wilshire’s been fortunate to receive various PPE donations over the past few months. Before COVID-19, was there such thing as PPE donations or has that really only been since this crisis hit?
We’ve never had a need for PPE donations before. The biggest thing that hit everyone at first was the need for the masks, a lot of people that we served lacked access to them. Our protocol is that no one goes into home unmasked. Some of our nurses and community members went to work to make as many cloth masks as possible. Masks were a huge need in the beginning, so we were glad to get the donations when we did. San Luis Obispo County Health was a great resource. We were able to supply both the staff and the patients who needed them, because when two people who are talking are both masked, they have more protection. That’s really the best situation.
Are we still accepting donations at this time?
Absolutely! We are especially in need of gowns and thermometers at this time, but we will always accept any hand sanitizer, face shields, and N95 masks. However, the K95 masks have been proven not as effective, so we don’t accept those.
We’re doing all that we can to ensure that we have the proper equipment while also being mindful of cost, but any extra financial support would make it a lot easier for us. We are grateful for every donation to support Wilshire.
We’re constantly monitoring our supplies, what we need, and where we can source them. But with the numbers going up it’s getting more difficult. Our main priorities are that our staff and our patients are protected.
Anything else you’d like to share?
We do our best to assure our patients that we are prepared, we have everything our staff needs in order to make a visit. Our role in this whole experience is to keep them safe and to keep them out of the hospital. That is our responsibility and we are committed to continuing to innovate and maintain our responsibilities and commitment to our staff, patients, and their families.
If you are interested in donating PPE to Wilshire please call or email Janice at (805) 782-7600, firstname.lastname@example.org. If interested in making a cash gift to support Wilshire’s PPE supplies fund, please click here.