April 3, 2020/Press

“In the Trenches”: NC Nurses Are “Struggling” to Get PPE. What is Thom Tillis Doing to Help Them?

State leaders, nurses, and medical workers fighting “in the trenches” of this pandemic are “struggling to get equipment for both patients and health care providers.” The state has received 30% of what it’s asked for and has been told “not to expect more anytime soon.” Yet Senator Tillis still refuses to pressure the Trump Administration to provide North Carolina with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and continues to deflect from the issue.

Yesterday, the North Carolina Nurses Association said “the most anxiety provoking issue has been the lack of PPE,” and state leaders said that they are “still waiting” on what they have requested from the federal government — even after receiving a third shipment, North Carolina still needs N95 masks, face shields, gowns and more. Today, the state announced that it is in a “bad situation” with PPE because the federal government has provided only 30% of what it’s asked for.

But rather than pressure the administration to deliver the supplies North Carolina medical workers need, Senator Tillis continues to downplay the issue. Yesterday, Tillis deflected and blamed other states, saying “the requests for supplies are all over the map” and the federal government can’t keep up. On Wednesday, he claimed that the federal government is doing “everything we can” to secure PPE. Earlier in the week, he defended the administration and said its concern is oversupplying areas “that are not as at risk right now.”

But as nurses, doctors, medical workers, and state officials have made abundantly clear, the issue isn’t oversupplying other areas — it’s that our front-line workers “don’t feel like they have the protection and the ammunition that they need to take on this virus as well as they want to.

For a U.S. Senator who has spent the last year talking up how close he is with the administration, Senator Tillis is letting North Carolina front-line workers down.

CBS17: NC leaders say they’re struggling to get equipment for patients, health care providers
By Michael Hyland
April 2, 2020

Key Points:

  • As North Carolina and the country prepare for a surge of patients at hospitals due to the COVID-19 outbreak, state leaders say they’re struggling to get equipment for both patients and health care providers.
  • North Carolina has received about 17 percent of personal protective equipment requested form the Strategic National Stockpile, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services. This includes equipment such as masks, gloves, face shields and coveralls.
  • When asked about the supply issue and whether the federal government needs to improve coordinating the distribution of supplies among states, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) told CBS17 in an interview, “Well, we’re looking at a number of things. Number one, how much of the need is being supplied by the private providers who are ramping up their capability, how much of it’s coming from the stockpile. It’s my understanding that right now 25 percent of the distribution from the stockpile is based on state population. And, what we’re trying to do is make sure North Carolina’s getting its fair share.”
  • The North Carolina Nurses Association told state lawmakers Thursday morning that getting enough personal protective equipment (PPE) is the “most anxiety-provoking issue,” adding that the state has about 30 percent of the supplies it needs statewide.
  • Democrat Cal Cunningham, who is running against Tillis in the November election, tweeted Thursday, “Take it directly from our state’s nurses. The stockpile is depleted and hospitals don’t have what they need. The administration should expand the use of the Defense Production Act- which they have used thousands of times before this crisis- right now.”
  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said states are competing against one another on the open marketplace in an effort to secure more supplies.
  • “Well, I think a part of what we have to do is, the requests for supplies are all over the map,” Tillis said.

Policy Watch NC: In the trenches of a pandemic, frontline medical workers ask lawmakers for reinforcements, more supplies
By Joe Killian 
April 2, 2020

Key Points:

  • Front-line medical workers in North Carolina need more personal protective equipment, work flexibility and reinforcements from new and returning nurses and doctors  as COVID-19 numbers climb.
  • “[Nurses and hospital workers] certainly consider themselves to be your front-line soldiers in this effort,” Tina Gordon, CEO of the North Carolina Nurses Association, told the legislative Health Care work group, a subcommittee of the House Select Committee on COVID-19. “But they don’t feel like they have the protection and the ammunition that they need to take on this virus as well as they want to.”
  • As the numbers increase, public health officials warn that a peak, projected for middle to late April, could strain available hospital resources and jeopardize the health of doctors and nurses as they treat thousands of new cases.
  • Personal protective equipment like N95 masks, gloves, gowns and caps are a top concern among front-line medical workers, Gordon said. The national reserve is depleted and while most hospitals in the state still have some on hand, the increasing demand is creating a lot of anxiety over a dwindling supply.
  • Dr. Gibbie Harris, public health director for Mecklenburg County, explained her county alone has performed more than 10,000 tests in the last few weeks just through hospitals.
  • “We’ve been burning through PPE,” Harris said.
  • “We’ve got a number of hospitals in the county that are seeing COVID patients in the hospital,” Harris said. “We’re using PPE in the appropriately at this point — we haven’t started rationing yet … but if we talk about needing to set up a mass care site outside of the hospital system, because their walls are only so big, what we’re looking at with our numbers right now…we have to have the resources to do that before we do it. We can’t wait until we open a mass care site and say, ‘Oh yes, we need some equipment for that.’”
  • Harris teared up, her voice breaking, as she gave a presentation to the work group about her own county, which has  reported more than 300 cases in the last three weeks — and how bad the situation could get there.