As the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) grows due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, The Joint Commission has announced their support for allowing physicians to bring their own from home.
In a statement, the healthcare organization says that they support the move when hospitals cannot provide PPE while also recognizing that:
· Hospitals must conserve PPE when they are in short supply to protect their staff who perform high-risk procedures
· It is uncertain how much good privately-owned PPE can do, but the balance of evidence suggests it is positive
· No Joint Commission standards or other requirements prohibit staff from using PPE from home
· Homemade masks are an extreme measure that should only be used when standard PPE is unavailable
In recent weeks, social media has been abuzz with physicians decrying the lack of PPE at their healthcare facilities, begging the federal government to supply more PPE, and fashioning their own masks and ventilators using household items.
The New York Times has reported on battles between physicians and hospital leadership in New York over rules barring PPE from home.
Despite this, and the growing number of healthcare staff being diagnosed with COVID-19, President Donald J. Trump has been reticent to take full advantage of the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law enabling the federal government to procure vital supplies, to produce more PPE or ventilators, another vital piece of medical equipment needed by many patients hospitalized with the virus.
According to The New York Times, the Trump Administration has used the act to procure military supplies thousands of times since Trump took office, but the president has resisted making full use of it to battle the pandemic.
“You know, we’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” the Times quotes Trump as saying. “Call a person over in Venezuela, ask them how did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well.”
He has recently relented on this stance to order General Motors to begin building ventilators, but still casts doubt on the need for additional PPE being provided to some of the areas hit hardest by the pandemic. Trump has even gone so far as to imply, without evidence, that hospital staff may be selling off PPE rather than using it.