Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health on Wednesday issued a call for donations to address its "depleting stock" of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer.
President and CEO Joanne M. Conroy said in a press release that, while the New Hampshire-based health network has "made strategic adjustments" to "best utilize" its supply of face masks, face shields, isolation gowns and gloves, it will need more as the coronavirus "gains momentum."
“No donation is too small," Conroy said in a press release, though she did not provide further information about the current supply. Asked for those details Wednesday afternoon, spokesperson Rick Adams assured that the situation was not "dire."
He said Dartmouth-Hitchcock has taken measures to cut down on the usage of protective equipment, such as recently suspending all elective procedures. But with hospitals around the country struggling to procure gear during the coronavirus outbreak, Adams said the health network thought Wednesday's call to action would be a "terrific way to engage the community and help us meet the demand."
"We have to take every step we can. These are extraordinary times," he said, later adding, "There’s no crystal ball telling us what’s coming down the road."
The University of Vermont Medical Center is also keeping an eye on its supplies and looking at "new and creative solutions" to finding new sources of masks and other equipment, said spokesperson Neal Goswami.
But the hospital is not currently asking for donations at this time. "Right now, we do have what we need on hand," Goswami said.
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development put out a plea on behalf of Vermont health care providers this week. The agency asked manufacturers and construction companies with N95 face masks to consider donating them.
"N95 face-masks are a critical tool needed to ensure our healthcare professionals are able to provide care to those most impacted by the virus," the agency wrote in a newsletter distributed in Addison County. "These masks have become increasingly difficult to procure and are urgently needed in our healthcare facilities."
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration said last week that the need for personal protective equipment may outpace supply during the coronavirus outbreak, which is why many health care workers around the country have been told to ration gear. Hospitals have also flagged a need for more ventilators to keep critically ill coronavirus patients alive.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine has projected that 960,000 coronavirus patients in the U.S. may need to be put on such ventilators during the outbreak. But the U.S. has only about 200,000 of the machines, by the organization's estimate, about half of which are older models that might not best serve seriously ill patients.
Gov. Phil Scott was on a phone call with the Trump administration on Monday, during which the president encouraged governors not to rely on the federal government to provide medical equipment.
“Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” Trump said during that call, according to the New York Times."We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself.”
Dartmouth-Hitchcock's request comes a day after the White House issued a similar call to action, citing the nationwide shortage. On Wednesday, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to speed up production of medical supplies and equipment.
Asked about Vermont's supply during a press conference Wednesday, Vermont Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said that the state has 245 ventilators and is trying to secure more.
"One of the things that the governor has always told us is, think ahead," Smith said. "Think ahead the next 72 hours to know what we need, and where we're going, in terms of our needs, and I think that's an important message."
The Vermont Department of Health has reported 19 coronavirus cases. New Hampshire, meanwhile, has 39.