By Kristina Rex

BOSTON (CBS) – Doctor Jessica Flynn was quick to take action when she became aware of the desperate need for personal protective equipment at her husband’s smaller Massachusetts hospital, where he works as an emergency room doctor. “They’re beyond the point of one mask a day,” she said. “They’re wearing a mask until it’s soiled.”

She started calling her politicians. Then, she took to Twitter, using the hashtag #GetMePPE, meaning “Get Me Personal Protective Equipment.” It’s been shared by thousands of health care workers across the country to spread awareness of the nation’s critical lack of lifesaving equipment for medical workers.

Flynn wrote, “This morning it was still dark when my husband left for the ER. He said, ‘I never thought I’d have a job where people thank me for my service and my son cries every night worrying I will die.’”

At home, Flynn’s husband sleeps in a separate bedroom and uses a separate bathroom so as to not contaminate his family. When he packs the car for work, he packs extra protective equipment, like painting masks, just in case he’ll need it. Flynn says her middle son cries every night, worried for his dad’s safety.

Nurses and doctors at other hospitals are feeling the lack of resources, too. “I feel like I’m putting myself in danger, and I feel like if I don’t have the right PPE, I could endanger a patient,” said Ellen McGinnis, a nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. On Thursday, the Massachusetts Nurses Association called out the hospital’s parent company, Steward Medical Group, for “inconsistently providing PPE including N95 masks, gowns and other equipment to staff when needed.”

The same day, Governor Baker announced the Kraft Family had used the New England Patriots plane to collect more than 1 million N95 masks from China and bring them back to Massachusetts. “I’m delighted that the Patriots did that,” Ellen McGinnis said. “There’s no guarantee those masks will actually get to us, to the people working on the front lines.”

“There is some sort of inequity between what hospitals are getting what,” Dr. Flynn said. She worries resource-rich hospitals have more life-saving equipment than smaller ones.

Dr. Alister Martin, who works in the Emergency Department at Mass General Hospital, understands the disparity between resources. “It’s a challenge,” he told WBZ. “We’re lucky to work at Mass General. We don’t have to worry that much. We get a mask at the beginning of a shift and we’re able to use it until the end of the shift.” He called it a “luxury” that he gets a new mask every day. Typical protocol, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, is one mask for each patient a health care worker treats.

Dr. Martin took to Twitter on a day he calls unlike anything he’s seen in the ER. He put an unprecedented 12 patients on ventilators in one shift because of COVID-19. “There’s this new emotion that we’ve never had as health care providers. And that is fear. Fear for our own lives, to be totally honest,” he told WBZ. “A lot of us are going to get this illness and some of us might not make it. That is the really scary part of this PPE situation.”

He, too, thanked the Patriots organization for getting masks for Massachusetts, and added, “there’s an opportunity here to invest in hospitals and health care so we don’t have to send the Patriots to China to get some N95 masks.”

Kristina Rex

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