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Early in the coronavirus pandemic, it was clear that the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) most hospitals had on hand was not going to be enough.
As the volume of patients increased exponentially, hospital staffs began searching for PPE anywhere they could find it.
The ER doctors at Edward-Elmhurst Health have stepped up to acquire masks, respirators and gowns.
Peter Schubel, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Edward Hospital, and his wife, Jen, along with his ER co-workers, researched alternatives to N95 masks that would be usable by front-line workers.
They discovered that 3M masks, typically used by industrial workers to protect themselves from chemical exposure, could be used when N95 masks were scarce, Dr. Schubel says.
“We began to look for sourcing these masks. They had to be clean, they’re rubber. They can be reused,” Dr. Schubel says, which is a huge benefit when conservation of supplies is at the forefront.
“The whole ER group was looking for these. It’s not a traditional healthcare mask, but the CDC supported it and the filters were appropriate. We felt this could be a good, reusable source,” Dr. Schubel says.
Half masks fit over the nose and mouth, while full masks include a face shield. Both types require filters.
When the group was able to get five or six full facemasks, the initial plan was to reserve them for the team going into the rooms for intubation, as they face the highest risk. This included the physician performing the intubation, the respiratory therapist and the nurse.
“The masks fit well, they’re secure. They give you a feeling of safety,” Dr. Schubel says.
Jen Schubel was at a local Home Depot store at the time they received delivery of 196 half masks. She bought the lot. She also purchased 50 full masks from Berland’s House of Tools, but not before the store confirmed they were being used for healthcare providers. Then they helped her find additional masks from other Chicago-area stores.
Several other ER doctors were able to acquire PPE as well.
Sangita Rangala, M.D. and Sara Jane Hendren, M.D., also emergency medicine physicians at Edward Hospital, were able to obtain 1,000 envo® masks, which are reusable N95 respirator masks. Through collaboration with a various community organizations, they also procured reusable face shields, as well as 5,000 reusable isolation gowns.
The doctors also donated several thousand N95 and KN95 masks that passed fit testing, several hundred gloves, surgical masks, homemade cloth masks, and food to senior centers, the Naperville Fire Department and other organizations.
In addition to the recently-acquired envo masks and gowns, now the health system has about 250 half masks and about 80 full masks in use at Edward Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital. They’re used in the hospitals’ emergency departments, intensive care units, operating rooms, and by critical care pulmonologists.
There are pods at each hospital dedicated to cleaning the masks and filters after each use. When a worker needs a mask, they pick one up at the pod. When they’re finished, they return it for cleaning.
Edward-Elmhurst Health is accepting all commercially and homemade PPE as emergency back-up supplies. In the event we do not need to use those supplies, we will work with other organizations to put them to use to the best of our ability. Items most needed include:
If you have new, unused equipment and would like to make a donation please visit us at our loading docks and we will receive your donation in a safe manner. Donations can be accepted between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Edward Hospital’s loading dock is located on Osler Drive west of the South Parking Garage. Elmhurst Hospital’s loading dock is located on Harvard Street on the north end of the building.
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