OLYMPIA — As health workers prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases in Washington’s hospitals, state officials are trying to stock up on essential medical gear like masks, gloves and ventilators.
The Department of Enterprise Services (DES) is working the State Emergency Operations Center to obtain and deliver needed gear for first responders, care facilities and the public-health system.
DES spokeswoman Linda Kent said the agency is looking to get hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, gloves, masks, face shields, respirators and gowns.
“We have had some initial success in finding items like gowns, gloves and face shields,” Kent said.
“So in some cases over the past several days, we ramped up from 0% of what DES has been asked to find, to about 30%,” she added.
The agency is looking for goods on a federal-surplus program, which is separate from the National Strategic Stockpile.
DES workers also have created a full-time team at the State Emergency Operations Center to determine where they can find and buy needed items, Kent said.
“That team is working really, really creatively, they’re looking far beyond the usual places that we go to obtain items” such as existing state contracts with suppliers, she said.
When equipment is obtained, the state Department of Health (DOH) determines where it is most needed, and the DES works to get it delivered, Kent said.
While there has been some initial success, “There’s definitely more to do,” she added.
Erika Henry, of DOH, said “resource shortages are concerning” for both equipment and qualified staff. DOH has been requesting items from the Strategic National Stockpile.
Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced federal officials would reprioritize how that stockpile is doled out to states. Inslee said the move would help Washington get more supplies like gloves and masks to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.
DOH is also looking at acquiring additional ventilators that can treat both COVID-19 patients and patients with other illnesses, Henry said.
Because different types of ventilators help with different aspects, the state needs a variety of gear, she said.
To go along with that, health officials need specialized pharmaceuticals and qualified staff to operate those ventilators.
In addition to signing up retired and out-of-state medical workers, Henry said officials could reduce barriers for others with some experience, such as students in various medical fields who are nearing graduation.