Hospitals also reported shortages of ventilators, IV poles, bed sheets, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and other basic equipment.
They have not been able to count on shipments from the federal strategic stockpile, which have been not only few and far between but often contain defective and unusable gear, the report found. In desperation, many facilities have turned to “new, sometimes un-vetted, and non-traditional sources” to obtain gear, often at exorbitant cost. One hospital is now paying $6 apiece for masks that used to cost 50 cents each.
The national failure to quickly distribute test kits and process samples is also squeezing hospitals, with some patients taking up bed space for a week or more while they wait for results.
“Millions [of tests] are needed, and we only have hundreds,” said one hospital administrator.
An HHS spokesperson responding to the report said the department is taking steps to loosen regulations on hospitals and allow licensed health care providers to work across state lines to ease staffing shortages.