Federal watchdog report highlights how hospitals are struggling with pandemic

New OIG report details the challenges hospitals across the nation are facing as the pandemic steamrolls on

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New York hospital officials unload donated coronavirus supplies.
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Last Updated:
April 6, 2020 - 10:05am

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Hospitals are struggling to fight against the coronavirus – including shortages of personal protection equipment and long waits for test results, according to a new federal watchdog report.

The report by the Department of Health and Human Services' Officer of the Inspector General was compiled from a late-March survey, which included interviews with representatives from 323 hospitals across 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 

The report finds that the primary challenges hospitals are facing include shortages of coronavirus testing supplies and extended waits for tests results, in addition to widespread shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and difficulty expanding hospital capacity to treat patients. 

Hospitals are also being threatened financially by the increased costs associated with the pandemic, and decreased revenue streams. Some reported confusion due to inconsistencies between guidance from federal, state and local authorities, and many feared for an anticipated shortage of ventilators.

Some hospitals are attributing shortages to a weak supply chain that is overburdened at the moment by demand from virtually the entire healthcare system and public consumers. 

“One hospital administrator reported that some supply distributors limited the quantity of supplies that any one hospital could order, which meant that even with no COVID-19 patients, the hospital was depleting PPE faster than it could restock,” according to the report. 

One hospital reported their mask usage was up from their baseline of 200 masks per day to 2,000 daily.

State and federal governments have been sending in emergency shipments of supplies, but according to the report, many of those efforts are moot, due to the ineffectiveness of the products sent. 

“One hospital reported receiving a shipment of 2,300 N95 masks from a State strategic reserve, but the masks were not useable because the elastic bands had dry-rotted. Another hospital reported that the last two shipments it had received from a Federal agency contained PPE that expired in 2010," the report also reads.

To help reduce stress and outside burden on the staffs of their facilities, hospitals reported providing emotional and psychological counseling, in addition to childcare, grocery and laundry services, and hotel accommodations to allow separation from staff with at-risk family members.