The Department of Veterans Affairs sent out a department-wide message to workers last week claiming they're "confident" that their "current supply levels are adequate," but that's not anywhere close to true according to documents obtained by Buzzfeed News.
Their supply levels are not just inadequate; they're dangerously pathetic.
Documents obtained by Buzzfeed show that some facilities are rationing masks down to just one per week in some cases!
The situation had grown so dire, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, that medical personnel caring for patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 would receive only a single surgical mask per shift rather than the N95 respirators recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those working in parts of the hospital without positive COVID-19 cases would be issued only a single surgical mask each week. The more protective N95s, wrote Dr. Steven R. Simon, chief of staff for the VA’s Greater LA Healthcare System, would be “restricted to procedures and settings in which aerosolization is expected” — such as when patients were placed on a ventilator. [...]
“What’s concerning is that this is happening to the wealthiest institution in the world — the United States government,” said one VA worker who asked not to be named for fear of losing their job after the department sent a note in March telling employees not to speak with the press.
For those who don't know, medical personnel are suppose to change masks and other equipment between every patient they see so they don't incidentally cross contaminate from one to another. That's why millions of masks are needed to fight a pandemic. Workers are seeing far more patients than they normally would during an outbreak of a virus that is far more infectious than even the flu.
In this case, the VA is reportedly telling some staff that they'll only receive one mask for an entire week of patients. And that's horrifying, of course, but giving critical staff only one mask per shift is also terrible.
Given that we don't know the true extent of the outbreak because of inadequate testing, it will be a miracle if this doesn't spiral into a disaster at VA facilities.