Filling the PPE Gap at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic

Filling the PPE Gap at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic

By Lori Kelley, Senior Director of Quality, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic

More than a month after the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control sounded the alarm about a global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Community Health Centers like Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic still have to implement aggressive and unconventional policies and tactics to ensure the health and safety of staff and patients.

Since the first COVID-19 case in our region, our primary goal has been and will remain the continuation of services to all our communities in a manner that prioritizes staff and patient safety.

Dr. Tamera Schille modeling a mask with an internal filter. Dr. Schille has been researching the most appropriate filters for surgical masks.

Our first point of reference is always the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control. Our use and distribution of PPE has followed their guidelines and, as such, we have implemented universal masking at all our clinical and administration sites across our two-state service area. This is in an effort to increase protection of staff and patients during the COVID 19 pandemic and to reduce the likelihood of healthcare associate infections.

In order to accommodate this increased need for PPE in light of a global shortage, our staff not working in face-to-face patient care visits are able to wear a cloth mask.

Our Quality and Infection Control leaders sourced and thoroughly vetted a pattern for cloth masks. After sharing our need for these masks through emails and social media, Yakima Valley Farm Workers staff, family, and friends went to work to protect the health care workers they love and support. Our own internal grassroots team of sewing nurses have been amazing and have sewn over 1,000 masks to date.

3D models printed by Dr. Aaron Grigg ,who is planning to trial them once YVFWC receives the ordered appropriate filter type. Providers are working diligently to research and provide the best PPE possible if we move to being fully dependent upon ourselves during this crisis.

Our Quality and Infection Control leaders drafted and implemented policies to ensure appropriate cleaning and sterilization of the cloth masks; implemented  a universal masking policy detailing which staff might be eligible to use a cloth mask versus standard, disposable PPE; and piloted workflows at several clinics to identify gaps or necessary changes.

We find ourselves in extraordinary times and given current circumstances, we believe this departure from standard equipment is absolutely necessary in order to continue to serve our vulnerable populations without risking the well being of our healthcare providers.

Our front line staff that are delivering care to potentially infected patients are still using the standard issue PPE and are not using any cloth materials.

We continue to investigate the possibility of other methods of reaching our primary goal: continued services to our communities in a way that minimizes the risk of infection for our staff and patients. Currently, we are using our dental 3D printer to prototype masks.

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