Facing disruptions in medical mask supplies, some hospital staff are re-using masks and using alternative types, according to a new survey.
In ASHP’s second bi-weekly survey of members, 42% of hospital pharmacists said the disruption in supplies of surgical-type medical masks was either major or moderate, a 27% increase from ASHP’s first survey.
The second survey was conducted March 23 to 26.
As a result, hospital staff are either going without masks or using alternatives with mixed or poor results. “The shortage of masks not only leaves health care workers unprotected, it also impacts the ability of pharmacists to safely prepare certain medications,” ASHP said in an email to Drug Topics®.
The cost of masks has also surged: 33% of hospital pharmacists reported higher costs of surgical-type masks and N-95 respirators, whereas 19% said their cost has stayed the same, and only 3% said the cost of masks has gone down.
Over half of pharmacists are also having difficulty sourcing isopropyl alcohol, the survey found.
For hospital pharmacists who reported “major disruptions” in the supply of medical masks, they said there is only 8% availability of surgical-type masks and 17% of N-95 masks.
For those with “moderate disruption,” there is 34% availability of surgical masks and 34% of N-95 respirators.
Nearly all (95%) of hospital pharmacists said their organization has a plan to conserve medical masks; an increase from 84% in the last ASHP survey. Notably, 81% of health care systems have already implemented their conservation plans.
Only 28% of hospital pharmacists said their organization has requested a distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Strategic National Stockpile. However, 53% of those were successful in obtaining medical masks.
A majority (79%) say they have vendor-implemented allocations on medical mask purchases, up 19% from the first survey.
For sterile compounding programs, 58% are re-using masks, and 6% are using alternative masks such as non-shedding fabric.
1. ASHP. COVID-19 Bi-Weekly Medical Supplies Survey Results. ASHP’s website. https://www.ashp.org/Pharmacy-Practice/Resource-Centers/Coronavirus/Bi-weekly-PPE-Survey-Results-Covid-19. Accessed April 3, 2020.