Some of the personal protective equipment that nursing home providers received from the federal government was “way expired” and “should have never gone out,” according to an officer who oversaw the shipments.
Col. Brian Kuhn, director of operations for the Defense Logistics Agency under the Department of Defense, said that was the case with some N95 respirator masks that nursing homes received in comments during a call with LeadingAge members Friday.
“It’s just one of those things, that I’ll be honest, that kind of probably slipped through the cracks and they should have never gone out,” Kuhn said. “It’s not part of the program. It was just something that was kind of … let’s just get this stuff out. We had them in the warehouses, there was a great need out there. It was just a very quickly, ‘get the stuff out of the warehouses.’”
He added that the agency “just kind of carte blanche shipped them all out.”
Kuhn’s comments came after several providers across the country reported that they received faulty PPE from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Long-term care providers recently described receiving gowns that they said look like tarps with no holes for hands, and surgical masks that were too thin.
In response, LeadingAge called for Vice President Mike Pence to investigate the “failures.”
Kuhn told listeners on the LeadingAge call that the blue gowns are actually the “highest level” certification being sent out. “Unfortunately, because it is blue polyethylene, it looks like a tarp. I can totally understand if you’re not familiar with that type of gown and there are some facilities in some regions of the country that aren’t familiar with it and there are some that are using this gown regularly, so there’s a lot of confusion.”
In addition to instructions with the gowns, a training video will be placed on a federal website to help providers. About 25% of the gowns sent out, about two million, were the blue kind, but they will not be included in the second round.
Kuhn also said the Haynes cloth face masks that many providers complained about receiving with “not intended for use with COVID patients” stickers were not a part of the announced FEMA distribution program, but rather a part of the “Project America Strong” project, another HHS program. Those masks are “not intended for medical professionals.” They are intended to be used “by the average consumer, to help protect them and help protect the people around them, not in the medical setting,” he said. Those that landed at nursing homes “are more intended for visitors.”
The Trump administration in April announced that FEMA would send two weeks’ worth of PPE supplies to the 15,000-plus nursing homes across the country before July 1. The first round started May 7 and ended June 10; the second round will start around June 25 and “should run through about the first week of August,” Kuhn said. The agency had sent 14,965 shipments as of Friday, with 546 still in transit.
The materials are meant only to supplement what providers otherwise already should have, he stressed. All packages will be shipped via UPS and have a CMS sticker on each side. Otherwise, they are not part of the FEMA effort.
If providers receive defective or ill-fitting PPE, they should be prepared to describe the deficiencies in order to assist tracking and replacement, Kuhn added. Providers can use the general customer service phone number, (800) 892-1099, or go online at www.federalresources.com to reach the private company in Maryland handling inquiries.