‘If they have enough, where are they?’ Colorado nurse worried about hospital’s mask supply

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DENVER (KDVR) — Across the state of Colorado, health care workers are being asked to wash and re-use protective gear intended for single-use. 

Multiple health care systems have implemented these protocols as a way to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) gear amidst the pandemic. 

That includes masks and gowns normally thrown away between patients. 

“I’ve been a nurse for 35 years, and I’ve never seen this before,” said one nurse. 

That woman, who asked to remain anonymous, is a critical care nurse at a Centura Health hospital in the Denver metro area.

“I’m not sure we’re being protected adequately,” she said. “They say they have enough, but if they have enough, why are they having us re-use it?” 

She says nurses are only being given N-95 masks when dealing with a COVID-19 positive patient. 

“We’re interacting with patients who possibly will be COVID whenever we get the tests back, and we’re only using a surgical mask. We’re not using N-95,” she said. “It’s possible we’re being exposed before we even know it.” 

Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis announced plans to purchase 2.5 million N-95 masks, but said it could be weeks before the supply actually reaches Colorado hospitals. 

“What we know now is not only are we facing a health care crisis, we’re facing a supply chain crisis,” said Polis. “At this point in the crisis, personal protection equipment equals lives.” 

That nurse says she volunteered to bring in an N-95 mask from home, but was told no. 

“I have a medical grade N-95, and I’m not allowed to bring my own in,” she said. “They’d rather me re-use some possibly sterilized mask from someone else.”

Centura Health says PPE could be allowed at a later date, releasing this statement to FOX31: 

Currently it is not permitted or necessary for Centura associates to bring their own PPE into our facilities. The Joint Commission said it will allow personal, approved PPE if supplies reach critical levels, but we are not currently at that level.

Centura Health facilities do not have any critical supply issues at this moment. We are maximally conserving our supplies to meet our future needs for protecting our caregivers and the communities we serve. As conditions continue to evolve, we are preparing for a potential increase of patients who may be infected with COVID-19 or have other serious illnesses and conditions.

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