In the coronavirus emergency the question of donated face masks, some of them homemade, has come up. Can medical providers use them, or are they using them? Samaritan Health Services has provided an answer.
On Facebook, someone told me last week he had overheard Samaritan staffers talking about how they were not supposed to use recently donated personal protective equipment and donated homemade masks. I, too, had been wondering how hospitals or clinics could take a chance on donated “personal protective equipment” like masks.
I put the question to Ian Rollins, who handles public information for Samaritan Health Services. He sent me Samaritan’s answer on Monday afternoon. Here it is, in its entirety:
“Samaritan has received generous donations of masks, and we are very thankful to our communities. All staff must be fit tested for N95 masks before they can be used effectively for infection prevention, as it’s not one size fits all. In settings where face masks are not available, the CDC does allow for health care professionals to use other masks, including homemade masks, for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. (Homemade masks or any opened box of masks must be sanitized and/or sterilized before being put into use in patient care settings.) Samaritan’s strategy is to use standard PPE first as it offers the best protection for our vital health care professionals. Other masks will be used if standard PPE supplies are depleted or would potentially be used in care settings not requiring as stringent PPE use, to free up available supplies in COVID-19 treatment areas.”
In short, it sounds as though the providers in the Samaritan system will use their regular supplies as long as they last. And if they run out and there is no alternative, they’ll sanitize or sterilize suitable items that have been donated and do the best they can. They can’t be faulted for that approach. (hh)