‘The fear is palpable’: Local nursing homes don’t have enough masks, gear to keep everyone safe

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There’s no population more vulnerable to the coronavirus than the elderly.

But FOX4 has received multiple complaints that some metro nursing home staffs aren’t wearing masks or other protective gear, putting both employees and patients at risk.

President Donald Trump has promised that critical supplies like masks, gloves and gowns are being delivered from the federal stockpile.

But one nursing home employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of losing her job, wrote FOX4 that her nursing home has no masks and she was banned from bringing her own.

“The fear is palpable,” said Lenny Jones, vice president of SEIU, the union representing health care workers in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Indiana.

“Our workers are scared to death that if they are not given the right protection then they can’t do the work they need to do to keep themselves and their families’ safe, and that’s a real concern,” Jones said.

An employee at Timberlake Care Center on Holmes Street in Kansas City, Missouri, said she felt unsafe going to work without any protective clothing — but none was provided.

Timberlake administrator Mike Catron said he planned to distribute two homemade cloth masks to each of his 80 employees as soon as he had 160 of them. So far, he only has 80.

As of Monday, more than 400,000 masks had been sent to Missouri from the federal stockpile (270,00 to Kansas).

Nursing homes are supposed to apply to the state for the supplies. Catron said he was unaware that was even available and wondered why no one at the state had notified him.

So far from the federal stockpile, Missouri has received about 170,000 N-95 masks (Kansas 115,00), 80,000 face shields (Kansas 50,000) and about 300,000 gloves (Kansas 200,000).

According to state guidelines, hospitals have first dibs on the supplies, then emergency medical workers and finally nursing homes.

Jones said home health aides should be included on that list. He said the agencies they work for have far less money than hospitals for buying protective equipment.

Jones said one home health aide could unknowingly spread the virus to elderly clients in multiple homes.

Particularly at risk, he said, are the elderly in rural Missouri where few measures have been put in place to stop the virus from spreading.

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