‘We’re desperate’: Hospital CEO says face mask supplier charging $7 for 58-cent masks amid coronavirus crisis

‘If we can’t keep out employees safe, there will be no one to care for the patients’

Chris Riotta
New York
Friday 20 March 2020 15:08 GMT
Hospital CEO says face mask supplier charging $7 for 58 cent masks

A face mask supplier began charging $7 for the medical gear that typically costs just 58-cents, according to one hospital CEO, as hospitals throughout the US began seeing an influx of Covid-19 patients this week.

Scott Steiner, CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System, said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday that his staff has been forced to create additional masks made of cloth to place over their N95 masks — which are typically discarded after each use — to extend their usability amid a severe shortage in medical supplies.

The CEO said at least one supplier for the N95 masks “want $7 per mask” and added that “they’ve got a million of them in-hand.”

“This is a mask that normally would cost us 58-cents,” he added, “but, I’ll tell you, we’re probably going to take them for $7 each because we’re that desperate.”

Mr Steiner also said his Georgia-based hospital saw a rise in the number of patients infected with the new coronavirus last Tuesday and Wednesday, as the number of cases continued to soar nationwide amid an increase in testing for the deadly illness.

His hospital was not the only one with staff creating makeshift face masks: reports from earlier in the week said hospital workers and health officials in Washington — where a major outbreak of Covid-19 has significantly impacted the region — were buying materials from Home Depot and local craft stores to make their own face shields.

Doctors and medical workers have meanwhile posted desperate pleas online for people to donate critical supplies and medical gear, otherwise known as PPE, which hospital staff uses to prevent a spread of infections while treating sick patients.

“Until it truly does [hit] you don’t realise what you’ll be going through”, Mr Steiner said on Wednesday.

The CEO added that his workers “can not be safe” if they don’t have access to the protective gear required to treat Covid-19 patients, who he noted are “highly contagious”.

He added: “If we can’t keep out employees safe, there will be no one to care for the patients.”

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