by Brianna Halstied, Media Coordinator

With the nation dealing with a global pandemic, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) has become scarce in many parts of the country. Some health facilities have found it difficult to keep an adequate supply of materials for their employees to use. Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other items that should be available to all healthcare workers have been difficult to obtain. Home health workers have had to pay hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets for the equipment they need to keep themselves and their patients safe. Even closer to home, some nurses in Oakland found themselves wearing plastic garbage bags to substitute for protective equipment. Nationally, many healthcare workers even felt the need to go onto social media to ask for PPE, using the hashtag #GetMePPE.

Hospice East Bay avoided this problem because of our focus on being prepared and because of the hard work of our leadership team, especially Bruns House Manager Laura Bakar. As an inpatient facility for patients whose symptoms require 24-hour care, Bruns House already had strict safety requirements. While other facility workers were dealing with the fear of contracting COVID-19 and not being able to protect their patients from it, thanks to Laura’s efforts, social worker Elizabeth Simmons never felt unsafe at Bruns House.

From the very start of the pandemic, Elizabeth and the other employees working at Bruns House were required to take their temperature before coming into the facility. Fresh gloves, hand sanitizers, and multiple masks were also made available when they came into work each day. “There was not even a moment that I haven’t had what I needed to feel safe,” Elizabeth explained.

According to Laura, Hospice East Bay was prepared from the beginning with enough PPE to sustain workers for some time. As the pandemic and shelter in place order was extended, more PPE was needed and some supplies became difficult to find. “It was across-the -board challenging to get gowns, gloves, regular face masks, N95 masks, and cleaning supplies. April and May were the toughest times for sure.” The Hospice East Bay leadership team called on many connections and resources to get the supplies she needed. Hospice East Bay also received many donations of cloth masks and gloves delivered from supportive families and volunteers who once had relatives in our care.

Hospice East Bay is also planning for the future, with a goal of stocking up a 30-day supply of PPE. This will allow them to be at least a month ahead in the event of another supply shortage. This is the kind of advance planning that has kept workers like Elizabeth Simmons and our patients safe throughout this crisis. “I feel really confident that I’ll have what I need when I need it,” Elizabeth says.

We wish more healthcare workers across the country could feel the same as they report to work each day, caring for the most vulnerable members of our community.