Masks, other medical supplies en route to Central Florida health care facilities

Masks, other medical supplies en route to Central Florida health care facilities

The run on supplies for things like hand sanitizer, gloves and masks is having a big effect on assisted living facilities and nursing homes across Central Florida.

Because of the increased demand, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a massive effort on Monday to get masks, gloves and other personal protection equipment to those facilities in the next 48 hours.

The owner of one Seminole County assisted living facility was nearly in tears explaining how they’re on the verge of running out of crucial supplies needed to take care of their residents and protect them from COVID-19.

“It’s just a very stressful time,” said Lana Watts, who owns Queen Elaine Assisted Living Facility in Casselberry. “It’s hard. People do not understand when they are hoarding, what they are doing is taking away from facilities like myself.”

With a GoPro camera attached to her body, Watts practiced social distancing and took News 6 on a virtual tour inside her facility. She showed the residents and nurses who are in desperate need of the protective gear.

“The Agency for Health Care Administration is stating we should be entering with masks. We don’t have access to masks,” Watts said. “So how can we abide by these policies and procedures if we don’t have the equipment available to us?”

The Florida Health Care Association confirms nursing homes and assisted living centers across the state are experiencing supply shortages at crisis level. The organization is an advocacy organization for long term providers and represents 690 nursing centers across the state.

“Our centers are already taking extraordinary actions to conserve masks, gloves and gowns wherever and however possible,” said Kristen Knapp, Communications Director with the Florida Health Care Association. “Despite these significant and meaningful efforts, there is great concern that many nursing homes and assisted living facilities are already at the point of exhausting their supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). We have been in constant communication with our state leaders related to these shortages and we need their help. While we continue working on strategies to extend our very limited remaining supplies and anxiously await additional resources from the state, we are asking everyone to provide whatever form of assistance they can at this time, including partners in other industries that may have available PPE supplies as well as members of the public. We cannot beat this virus alone, and we are calling on our state leaders, our partnering manufacturers and members of the public right now to help us protect the well-being of our residents.”

There is a desperate need for those items at Queen Elaine’s.

“We use gloves on a daily basis and no one has access to gloves at this point, so we’re down to two boxes of gloves,” Watts said. “Thank God I had an oversupply of hand sanitizers — which eventually I am going to run out of — as well as toilet paper, which I’m going to run out of as well. So that’s hard.”

The governor answered their call Monday by announcing the state will send out more than 200,000 masks, more than 20,000 shields and 20,000 gowns and around 78,000 gloves in the next 48 hours.

“We want all nursing homes throughout the state to have enough personal protection equipment so that any staff member that interacts with a resident, at least has one of those respiratory masks,” DeSantis said. “We would like them to have the gloves and the other stuff, but at least you have that.”

Watts said she hopes the supplies arrive before her facility runs out.

“We’re trying to stay calm and stay on top of it but it’s a little bit fearful,” Watts said.

The emergency management director in Seminole County said they’ve already started getting some of those needed supplies.

“So we’ve already received our first shipment,” EOC director Alan Harris said. “We received it yesterday at 3 p.m.”

Harris said he and other county emergency management teams are now working to distribute those supplies to places like Queen Elaine’s.

“We’ve prioritized it based on their information,” Harris said. “They’ve told us if they’re running out, if they’re totally out, and we’re going to fulfill those orders.”

Harris said he and officials at other county emergency operations centers are expecting more supplies in the coming days and will be distributing them to the facilities by either delivering the items to them or having someone from the facilities come pick them up.

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