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Tacoma ER doctor: ‘Definitely a concern’ over scarce supplies as outbreak ramps up

A nurse at a drive up COVID-19 coronavirus testing station set up by UW Medicine. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Hospitals across the Puget Sound region continue to share concerns over just how much the state’s coronavirus outbreak will strain their resources.

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“Supplies are getting tight — there’s no argument about it,” Dr. Nathan Schlicher told Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Radio.

Dr. Schlicher works in the ER at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, noting that his hospital — like many others in Western Washington — sees this as something that could strain resources for the foreseeable future.

“We’re hearing more and more that this could be a months long ordeal that we’re dealing with,” he stated.

As for whether there are worries that hospitals like St. Joseph will run low on supplies as more coronavirus patients require treatment, that’s becoming a real fear among medical professionals.

“I think there’s definitely a concern,” Schlicher said. “We need to ramp up our output efforts … [and]we need to work with Congress to continue to increase access to the national reserves.”

That aid continues to trickle in from the U.S. Department of Health. On Thursday, Washington state received 8,000 COVID-19 test kits, and on March 12, it got 129,000 respirators and 308,000 surgical masks.

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The state is also awaiting federal approval for an order of over 64,000 additional N-95 respirators, over 154,000 surgical masks, over 29,000 face shields, and just under 24,000 gowns.

Getting supplies both locally and from the federal government is crucial in ensuring hospitals are well-stocked before their capacity is strained to the limit.

“We’ll continue to get our own supplies both ways,” Schlicher said. “But we have to get it through both sides. The current supply chain is probably not going to be enough. And that’s why the (federal government’s) participation is going to be critically important.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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