Providers monitor Ebola crisis

Friday, October 31, 2014

YARMOUTH, Maine – Although Ebola scares are in the headlines every day, providers say they aren’t seeing much of that on the ground.

“We’re seeing a small amount of consumer panic buying, people trying to get extra gloves or gowns, but not the way we did with SARs and other things,” said Alan Grogan, president of Grogan’s Healthcare Supply in Lexington, Ky. “At the institutional level, we are seeing people review the items that they have been buying for many years that are old technology and may not have the level of protection they hoped.” 

Cardinal Health, which distributes medical equipment and supplies, including infection control and prevention, has seen a “location specific” increase in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE).

“With the most recent CDC guidance on PPE for healthcare workers treating Ebola patients recommending products that are not historically highly utilized on a regular basis in the acute setting, we do anticipate some shortage of safety products which, as you might expect, have experienced a sudden increase in demand,” said Corey Kerr. “We continue to work closely with customers and manufacturers to understand product availability and to secure alternative product when and where appropriate.”

Cardinal, in conjunction with AmeriCares, recently donated more than 1 million products for frontline health workers fighting the epidemic, she said.

Provider John Solomon, who has lived in the West African nation of Ghana, says the real crisis lies in Liberia—not the U.S. He planned to ship 25,000 respiratory masks overseas but that’s on hold for now.

“I had messages from a couple of manufacturers that were contacted by the government and told not sell no-touch thermometers, as well as certain masks and certain gloves in case any hospitals or care facilities need them in the U.S.,” said Solomon, CEO of Miami-based “That put a halt to me being able to donate 25,000 masks when I am not even able to buy 100. But, I plan to do it when I can.”

The Ebola scare does have providers taking a look at their internal processes, they say.

“We have kicked up infectious disease controls and we’ve been following the CDC and opened up some training internally,” said Joe Petrolla, president of Seeley Medical, which counts Cleveland, where one of the Ebola-infected nurses traveled to, as part of its territory. “We’ve talked with physicians who tell us they think it’s highly likely that Ebola will be controlled.”

At the end of the day, there are more immediate dangers, say providers.

“We need to focus on MRSA an stuff that is relevant to us,” said Adrian Ioja, general manager of Huntington, Calif.-based Diversified Medical Equipment. “That’s why we work so hard at (infection control). I would feel horrible if a customer caught staph.”