Healthcare workers at Brooklyn Hospital and from throughout the tri-state area are calling on hospitals and government to switch from disposable personal protective equipment to replace disposable N95 masks that they say run in short supply and are more expensive in the long run.
Members of the New York State Nurses Association were joined by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and a group called “COVID Courage,” to call on the city and state to fund purchases of reusable elastomeric respirators that cost $40, instead of $5 for the N-95 mask. The reusable mask, they say, “lasts for years without changing a filter,” while the N-95 mask are supposed to be used only once a day at the most, but hospital supervisors have asked some to reuse those masks up to a week, thereby putting healthcare workers at risk because hospitals cant maintain supplies.
Dr. Anushri Anandaraja, founder of COVID Courage, held up the two masks, saying the reusable mask makes the most sense because a single reusable can cost $40 while it might cost $150 per year for N95 masks that end up in the waste stream. She said it was important to “act now as a second wave of COVID-19 is still expected to hit the city in the fall.”
In a letter to the Mayor and Governor co-signed by medical professionals in a number of roles, Williams argues, “The lack of a clear end to this pandemic requires hospitals to create a long-term plan to deal with shortages of PPE. Utilizing reusable respirators such as Elastomeric Filtering Facepiece Respirators (EFFRs) and Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) will save healthcare institutions from expensive emergency purchases of disposable respirators such as the N-95 while providing superior protection for healthcare workers during the duration of COVID-19 and subsequent pandemics.”
Williams said it made no sense to continue buying disposable masks that were costing much more in the long run and were in short supply.
“The constant replacement of N-95s to adequate levels in the current climate and post-pandemic environments will prove unsustainable,” Williams said. “The order for every healthcare facility to have its own 90-day supply of PPE poses extreme challenges…We urge you to include and promote the partial replacement of N-95s with durable and sustainable reusable PPE for our front-line health care workers in city and state-level procurement initiatives.”
Dr. Anandaraja maintained that one respirator can replace 100’s of PPE N-95 masks. She added that it also saves on “tons of environmental medical waste being dumped in landfills each year.”
The NYC Reusable Respirator Working Group, an umbrella of the nurses association, COVID Courage and other health care organizations, is seeking to raise $30,000 just to equip the Brooklyn Hospital Center with 1000 respirator masks and then, raise more money for the rest of the city’s hospitals. They say $100,000 can purchase 2,500 masks and protect and entire hospital.