Tuesday morning the Texas Public Interest Research Group released a report stating that hundreds of nursing homes continue to struggle to obtain masks and gowns, but the state says there is an ample amount of personal protective equipment.
Data collected looked at PPE trends between May and August across the country. In Texas, the group said its research showed that most recently in August 12.7% of nursing homes didn't have a one-week supply of N95 masks.
“Obviously a number of suppliers are back on track they're able to produce even more they've expanded their capacity but I think really the issue with smaller facilities such as nursing homes and others within the country is the fact that there are many barriers to access PPE," said Alizee Weber, Deputy Director of Operations of Get Us PPE. "Some of them are in more rural areas and don't necessarily have access to suppliers, nor do they necessarily have the funding."
She said quality control is also an issue as items are manufactured in other countries and regulations may vary.
"And then another thing that we've been noticing is that the minimum order quantity for a number of suppliers are so high that they are perfectly fine for larger hospitals or larger healthcare systems but for individual properties and facilities trying to purchase PPE it's been really difficult," Weber explained.
Mayberry Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care Homes in Garland is not a nursing home, but a long-term care facility.
They too have experienced the ups and downs of getting ahold of PPE during the pandemic.
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"When it started it was a nightmare, we couldn’t get anything, everything was homemade, gowns, homemade face masks," said Scott Mayberry, the facility director at Mayberry Gardens. "Now we can get gowns and face masks but gloves have become the issue.”
He said before the pandemic, they might have spent around $2,000 for PPE and cleaning supplies, that number has quadrupled to about $8,000 and that's just one facility. He said the supply and demand have been difficult and costs have skyrocketed.
“We’re paying three times the amount of money for gloves, for example, then we were. We can't even get the ones we used to get. Masks have come down in price, they’re more available, but you can’t get N95 masks at all, and so being able to access those and maybe have some help in paying for that equipment would be wonderful," Mayberry added.
The TexPIRG Education Fund is pushing for more federal funding and wanting the government to put implement the Defense Production Act to allow more availability for PPE and so it's sold at lower costs.
But the state of Texas said there is PPE available for nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
A spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management said facilities should first go through their distributor. If that's not successful, then they should reach out to their local emergency management department. Finally, there's a program called State of Texas Assistance Requests (STARs) which according to the state is another avenue to obtain PPE for long-term care facilities.
TDEM said at the central warehouse there are more than 100 million masks, 16 million gloves and 17 million gowns. A spokesperson said they continue to ship out PPE to 40 warehouses across the state.
Gov. Abbott set up what's called Supply Chain Strike Force back in March to address PPE needs.
The state said it's continually purchasing PPE and has the resources to step in and help facilities that may have any type of shortage.