Medical professionals share challenges, urgent needs with lawmakers as COVID-19 cases rise
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, North Carolina currently has 1,498 confirmed coronavirus cases across the state. As cases continue to rise, medical professionals remain concerned about lack of protective equipment, medical supplies and the potential for hospitals across the state to become overwhelmed by patients.
At the first meeting of the NC House Select Committee on COVID-19 Healthcare work group on March 26, medical professionals shared reports on the potential impact they are projected to have on the number of cases and overwhelming of hospitals.
Steps have already been taken to reduce the increase in cases, including North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s statewide stay-at-home order, in addition to state labs such as Atrium, Duke and UNC health systems leading the way in creating test kits and potential vaccines to combat COVID-19.
“We haven’t experienced anything like this in our lifetime,” Donald Gintzig, president and CEO of WakeMed Health and Hospitals said of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There hasn’t been anything like this since 1918. This isn’t your usual flu situation or even MERS. This one spreads very fast which is why we need extraordinary measures to slow the spread, buy us time.”
The number of infected people is doubling every 2.5 days, Gintzig said — and those are the best numbers we have, given the availability of testing.
“It doesn’t take long to see where we will be in 10, 20, 30 days,” Gintzig said. “If we can get it to double every 4.5 days, if we can get it to double every 6.5 days that gives us the bandwidth to deal with what we face.”
“Shelter in place is very important,” Gintzig said. “One infected person infects four. The value of a shelter in place is slowing that spread. If we can get it from one to four, to one to two, we can start to flatten the curve.”
Dentists and other non-frontline medical professionals who have that equipment have been donating it, said Leah Burns, senior director for Government Relations for the North Carolina Healthcare Association. But the need is overwhelming, and supplies from the federal government are going first to areas of the country that are experiencing earlier and greater spikes in cases, like New York and Washington state.
“Right now the state has a stockpile and is able to fulfill about 30 percent of PPE requests,” Burns said.
Burns’s report to the committee also detailed how hospitals across the state are restricting visitors and postponing non-emergency surgeries to both preserve needed protective equipment and limit possible exposure to the virus. Unfortunately, Burns told the committee, the loss of payments from those non-emergency surgeries is creating a cash flow problem for hospitals and private practices that are stretched thin by the demands of the pandemic.
Lack of personal protective equipment (or PPE) like face masks, gloves, gowns and shoe covers, is one of the main concerns for local hospitals as they prepare the state for an increase in confirmed cases.
If you would like to help, donations of masks (N95, surgical); disinfectant, safety goggles, disposable gloves and gowns, hand soap and sanitizer greater than 60 percent alcohol), and shoe covers are needed for hospitals across the state.
WakeMed in Raleigh asks donors to email firstname.lastname@example.org for information about how to donate. They are only accepting new, unopened packages of supplies and are not accepting handmade items. More information can be found here.
Duke Health needs N95 masks, surgical and looped masks, and unopened boxes of gloves in particular. Donation site is at 100 Golden Drive in Durham and will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
UNC Health will have the following locations open for donations. More information here.
An updated list of donation drop-off locations, times and days can be found here.
The time is now for all of North Carolina to come together and protect those who have always taken care of us during the hardest of times. Let’s show our thanks to all the medical professionals all around the state.