ACS defends healthcare workers as PPE shortages lead to acrimony

Medical personnel PPE
Medical personnel wearing PPE

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) today leapt to the defense of healthcare workers who are heading to work in the face of increasing concerns over personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages as the COVID-19 pandemic cuts trails across the country.

The association released a statement in support of stretched surgeons, nurses and other key medical personnel as reports emerged in mainstream media outlets of threats made to staff who speak publicly about the difficulties they are confronting on the frontlines.

Among other cases, the story emerged of a Washington state emergency room physician who is said to have been fired after giving an interview to a newspaper on claims he’d made about inadequate equipment and testing on his Facebook page, according to a report carried by Bloomberg News.

The ACS outlined the picture confronting the medical field at large: Many healthcare facilities, it said, face shortages in PPE, including face masks, gowns and respirators.

However, the College’s statement went on to state: “The ACS believes it is essential that surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare personnel be able to speak freely, without fear of retribution, as they seek to find a solution to accessing PPE.

“We advise surgeons to speak with their institutional leadership on these matters and to be able to direct any concerns to the ACS, with the goal of protecting themselves and their colleagues.”

The ACS pointed out that the Joint Commission—which accredits and certifies more than 22,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States, including hospitals—had released a statement supporting the use of face masks and respirators provided from home when facilities are not able to provide access to PPE that matches the risk surrounding healthcare workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Joint Commission stepped forward with its statement yesterday, saying: “The Joint Commission supports allowing staff to bring their own standard face masks or respirators to wear at work when their healthcare organizations cannot routinely provide access to protective equipment that is commensurate with the risk to which they are exposed.”

Meanwhile, the ACS continued: “Where masks or respirators are recommended, the ACS maintains that surgeons should have access to and latitude to wear these masks at their sole discretion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has released a document that offers a series of strategies or options to optimize supplies of disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators.

“The ACS strongly supports the ability of surgeons to use their own masks or PPE, but this option does not obviate the hospital’s responsibility to provide adequate PPE to all their health care workers. In these extraordinary times, the ACS encourages institutions to adapt and be flexible so that health care personnel continue to feel safe; the Joint Commission guidelines are a reasonable starting point.”


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