FEMA Sends Faulty Protective Gear to Nursing Homes Battling Virus

Nursing homes in New Hampshire have received face masks with flimsy paper ear loops instead of elastic bands. In Arizona, some facilities have been sent gloves that are either all large sizes or all extra small.

At the Los Angeles Jewish Home, workers were heartened two weeks ago to receive about 1,000 disposable gowns, 187 pairs of eye goggles and 12,000 gloves in a range of sizes. But they were dismayed to also find 2,000 of what employees dismissively referred to as “trash bag gowns.”

“It’s outrageous that they are still sending these gowns,” said Dr. Noah Marco, the chief medical officer of Los Angeles Jewish Home, which has 1,200 beds and 50 employees. “And it’s insulting and inappropriate for the federal government to say we just don’t know how to use them.”

Even nursing homes expressing gratitude for the supplies say they are often mismatched to their needs, while others say the amounts are paltry given how quickly nursing home employees churn through single-use protective gear as they tend to dozens of patients a day.

“If I’m being totally honest, I’d describe these as a token offering,” said Sondra Norden, the chief executive of St. Paul’s Elder Services in Wisconsin. “If we had a major outbreak, we’d burn through these supplies in a few days.”

Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, a 120-bed nursing home in Harrisonburg, received its second shipment two weeks ago. It contained a mix of gowns — several hundred of the standard and highly coveted isolation gowns and a similar amount of the problematic gowns.

“I’m not sure how we would even use those,” said Jan Emswiler, a nurse educator who trains employees on the proper use of protective gear. She was especially confounded by a packing slip claiming the boxes contained 3,500 pairs of gloves. There were only 1,000 pairs, she said.

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