NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Frontline health care workers in New York say hospitals still don’t have enough protective gear to handle a potential second wave of coronavirus.
Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker says the state never experienced a shortage in the first place, but doctors and nurses on the frontline say lives will be at risk if another wave hits the state.
“We provided 24 million pieces of PPE and there was available PPE to all who needed it,” Zucker said Thursday.
The comments raised more than a few eyebrows as hospital workers repeatedly told the state there was a shortage. Some hospital workers even expressed frustration after some were given New York Yankee branded rain ponchos as protective gear during the height of the pandemic.
“Initially it was a nightmare,” says Judy Sheridan Gonzalez, a nurse at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and president of the NYS Nurses’ Association.
She says some nurses were told to keep masks in plastic bags to use over an entire week – when they are typical made for one time use only.
“What was the result? Workers deaths and illness at unprecedented proportions and poor patient outcomes,” Sheridan Gonzalez said.
She stresses there still isn't enough personal protective equipment to withstand a second wave, should New York experience one.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced back in May that hospitals had to keep a 90-day stockpile ready, but an executive order with that mandate was only signed last month, meaning many hospitals are still experiencing a shortage of supplies.
In a statement, the Department of Health says they are working to address the needs of hospitals, "We were in constant communication with hospital administrators from the start of this unprecedented pandemic, who were working under CDC emergency guidance and without a federal supply chain. When we heard from nurses on the ground that they needed more or better PPE, we immediately started daily conversations with union representatives, tightened protocols and treated the situation with the urgency it deserved to help ensure our frontline responders had necessary PPE. We’ve since put new regulations in place demanding hospitals have a 90-day PPE supply on hand at all times and are working to create localized supply chains to prevent this from ever happening again."