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Differing views on PPE availability offered for Jefferson County

The idea of personal protective equipment (PPE) and whether there is enough for healthcare workers locally and beyond has been a hot topic, and the answers are varied.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said PPE is in short supply in some areas of healthcare and that industry, dentists and others in the medical field are contributing excess PPE to the county and local hospitals.

“We are making requests to the State Operations Center for PPE, which are being partially filled,” Branick said. “We feel cautiously optimistic that as manufacturing capacity has been ramped up, the supply chain will be able to fulfill our needs in the coming weeks.”

Michelle Adams, director of business development and physician recruitment with The Medical Center of Southeast Texas, said they are committed to equipping Port Arthur staff members with the materials needed to safely care for patients.

Officials are reviewing updated guidance from the CDC and Texas Department of Health daily to assist in that effort.

“Steward Health Care’s preparations began months ago, when the virus initially emerged in the United States,” Adams said. “As part of this, we launched a substantial program to acquire and stockpile specialty equipment required to treat COVID-19 patients, including ventilators and personal protective equipment.”

The healthcare facility will continue to monitor the use of personal protective equipment and inventory as their response to this pandemic continues, she said.

Kevin Dolliole — public relations specialist with Christus Health, which includes a Port Arthur location — said they continue to follow the latest guidance from the CDC regarding best practices for PPE use preservation and conservation.

Associates and providers are to wear a medical mask, isolation gown, gloves and either goggles or a face shield while caring for any suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient and during certain procedures that guidance calls for the use of an N95 respirator.

“CDC guidelines call for the use of PPE only when it is necessary based on the patients an Associate or provider are caring for,” Dolliole said. “CDC guidelines also call for extended use and reuse of PPE when possible.”

Dolliole said they continue as a health system to solicit and procure additional supplies of PPE from dependable and reputable suppliers each and every day, and we are continuing to add to their current supply. “We currently have enough PPE to meet the expected needs of our facilities in Southeast Texas,” he said.

Currently, Associates are advised not to bring their own PPE to Christus hospitals as a way to ensure the safety of Associates as it is important that they can be able to verify that the PPE being utilized in our facilities is safe for use, is worn properly and protects Associates from exposures.

COVID-19 testing

The drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the Jerry Ware Terminal at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport is the main facility handling this portion of Southeast Texas and only tests those who have been pre-screened and given a number and appointment.

Dolliole knows the demands for testing are high and says CHRISTUS is able to accommodate in-house testing at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Beaumont. However, the facility is not a community-testing site and cannot accommodate walk-in requests.

“We continue to stress that patients who feel they have symptoms that meet current CDC criteria for COVID-19 to contact their primary care physician or the County Community Hotline at 550-2536 in order to schedule an appointment to be tested,” he said.

Adams said, in general, some hospital labs have their own testing, some use external companies and some use the state health department.