As the number of Americans with coronavirus climbs, health care providers are struggling to get the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to keep workers safe and to prevent the spread of the virus.
PPE includes items such as gloves and masks, which are especially important for home-based care workers, who serve the often frail and elderly populations most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Many states have asked the Trump administration for help getting more PPE for health care workers, at times coming to blows with each other and the federal government in the process. To make matters worse, home health providers typically rank far below hospitals and physicians on the PPE priority list, making supplies even harder to come by in the midst of nationwide shortages.
In light of all the chaos, Bayada Home Health Care is taking matters into its own hands. After using a year’s worth of supplies in just one week, the provider launched a fundraiser to help finance coronavirus-related needs, such as additional supplies, employee assistance and telehealth capabilities.
Moorestown, New Jersey-based Bayada is one of the largest nonprofit home health agencies in the country. It employs more than 30,000 clinicians across 23 states and 8 countries, offering services to those of all ages, from children to senior citizens.
“Without extra resources, we may be limited in our ability to help those most vulnerable, and to do our part in helping relieve the burden on hospitals and other acute care services that any of us may need,” Bayada says on its fundraising site.
Bayada declined Home Health Care News’ interview request for this story.
Along with the fundraising initiative, Bayada announced it was in “immediate need” of hundreds of thousands of PPE items. That must-have list includes:
— 175,000 gowns
— 45,000 N95 face masks
— 100,000 surgical masks
— 10,500 pairs of goggles
— 75,000 pairs of gloves
— 30,000 ounces of clinical hand sanitizer
— 53,000 protective barriers and disinfectant wipes
Bayada is also seeking funding to help pay for employees’ child care needs and emotional-support services, as well as general financial assistance.
Additionally, the money will be used to help the provider develop new “community health solutions, including telehealth, which is not reimbursed by insurance,” and to pay for COVID-19 education, screening and testing.
While PPE shortages are pervasive for providers nationwide, the problem is especially pronounced in New York, which has almost half of the country’s known COVID-19 cases.
Providers like the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) — the largest nonprofit home- and community-based health care organization in the country — are feeling the pressure first-hand.
Andria Castellanos, VNSNY’s executive vice president and chief of provider services, listed PPE among the biggest challenges the organization is facing in light of COVID-19.
“We are concerned about the available supply of PPE and are working with NYC and [the state health department] to procure adequate supplies for future needs,” Castellanos previously told HHCN in an email.
But even in comparatively less hard-hit states, home-based care providers — and the workers they employ — are struggling.
For example, in Ohio, lack of PPE is one factor putting the Medicaid home care program at risk of collapse, according to Joe Russell, executive director of the Ohio Council for Home Care & Hospice.
“Based on our PPE and workforce shortages, as well as my discussions with our board members, … we believe that some agencies only have a couple weeks of operating capability if there isn’t additional flexibility given, and additional resources are extended,” Russell wrote in a recent letter to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “We really are at a critical place.”
HHCN has also heard from concerned home health workers on the front-lines.
One such nurse told HHCN that her agency, one of the largest in Georgia, is entirely out of masks, hand sanitizer and disposable gowns.
“We are using PPE that we have stored away, which is not a lot,” she said in an email. “Yet we are still providing in-home care for our patients. What will happen when the four used masks that I have are no longer feasible?”