Iowa EMS: PPE Shortage

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(ABC 6 News) – Each day, paramedics at the Mason City Fire Department come to work and put on a mask and fresh pair of gloves to protect themselves and the patients they care for.

"We wear the full PPE with an N95, the gowns, the face shields, just like they would in ICU, its very similar to an ICU unit," said Carl Ginapp, Deputy Chief of EMS for the Mason City Fire Department.

Since the pandemic hit, it has shown how important personal protective equipment has become, and now, not only do our first responders understand the value of PPE, but also so do we. So as we all reached for a mask this past year, we may not have realized it but we were taking it away from them.

“Were limited on the supply that we can get where everything is being rationed national wide so it provides a lot of challenges that way in terms of getting PPE," Ginapp said.

Deputy Chief of EMS for the Mason City Fire Department Carl Ginapp says the pricing on items like masks and gloves that are used to keep his crew safe is astronomical.

"I have had to stretch every penny to its limit this year…well you always want to have a little safety factor there that’s disappearing fast," Ginapp said.

"It was like finding a needle in the haystack there for a while and all it did was drive up the prices of everything," said Dale Rayhone, paramedic supervisor with the City of Forest City and Forest City Ambulance.

The problem putting neighboring rural ems departments in a tough spot too.

"Were like everybody else we try to get a stockpile and we were very good at having the supplies before it hit because our number one concern is our crews," Rayhone said.

"It was it was really hard to find so when you got a box of them you held on to them real tight you didn’t waste them," said Jennifer Vaske a Paramedic at West Hancock Ambulance Service.

It’s a hefty price to pay to protect patients, but they say sticker price will always come second to safety.

"It cost our service and was a small community service the supplies and everything that it cost during COVID you know was probably about a 30 to 40 thousand dollar expenditure for just COVID supplies the mask and gloves and everything else that we had," Rayhone said.

"It’s essential that we have the PPE otherwise we would have more of an issue with our employees getting COVID from patients and having it spread through our department," Ginapp said.