PORTLAND, Ore. — After weeks of health care workers sounding the alarm about orders to conserve and reuse personal protective equipment, or PPE, fearing it made them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, Portland area hospitals confirmed Monday that 31 local health care workers have tested positive for the virus.
Twelve work at OHSU. Ten are from Providence Health and Services, eight are from Legacy Health and one works in Linn County.
Tuesday AFSCME leaders held a national media call, featuring a rep from Portland.
“They're not safe, right?” said Stacy Chamberlain of Council 75, speaking about local members being told to reuse PPE. “Taking these shortcuts around personal protective equipment doesn't work, and in the long run it puts more workers and patients at risk.”
She also blasted local hospitals for, she believes, rationing PPE more than they need to in an effort to stockpile for a spike in coronavirus patients.
Over the past couple weeks KGW has asked metro area hospitals multiple times how much PPE they have and how much they need.
Answers tend to lack hard numbers.
Tuesday, Michael G. Foley, director of integrated communications with Kaiser Permanente, wrote, “Kaiser Permanente has the PPE we need right now to care for patients and protect staff. PPE on hand is being carefully monitored. Plastic face shields and goggles may be sanitized and reused.”
Michael Cox, Vice President, Public Affairs & Communications for the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems, also weighed in, telling us, “To conserve supplies in preparation for a massive surge in patients, hospitals are following guidelines set out by the CDC and OHA. We are now reporting on our PPE stocks to OHA and are working with the state and our established vendors to secure more PPE in the coming days and weeks."
He added, “Hospitals are dedicated to keeping our essential health care workers safe.”
Both Providence and Kaiser are reportedly screening employees for symptoms when they get to work.
A rep for Kaiser wouldn't tell us how many healthcare workers in their system have tested positive, but he noted those who do could have contracted the virus off the job.