San Jose, California, United States: Health Workers wear N95 masks while manning the front desk at the Foothill Community Health Center during the coronavirus outbreak. (LiPo Ching / San Francisco Chronicle / Polaris)
Direct Relief this week is shipping 250,000 N95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to as many as 1,000 community health centers and free clinics in all 50 U.S. states that are playing a critical frontline role as Covid-19 spreads.
“Direct Relief is doing everything it can to bolster the front lines of the country’s health safety net and workforce because they do the best job communicating public health information to millions of people, and the best job keeping people healthy and out of hospitals,” said Thomas Tighe, Direct Relief’s President and CEO. “Both roles are even more critical now to reduce Covid-19 transmission and minimize the number of patients who become severely ill from the virus and require hospitalization.”
The vast network of Federally Qualified Health Centers is the largest primary care system in the United States, serving more than 29 million (1 in 11) U.S. residents, including 1 in 3 individuals living in poverty, 1 in 5 Medicaid beneficiaries, 1 in 5 rural Americans and 1 in 9 children.
Direct Relief is shipping protective gear this week both to FQHCs and free and charitable clinics, a separate category of community-based primary health care providers that operate 1,400 service locations and serve 2 million patients who are among the most vulnerable members of U.S. society.
All 1,000 deliveries are being made by FedEx as part of the company’s FedEx Cares “Delivering for Good” initiative. FedEx uses its global network and logistics expertise to help organizations with mission-critical needs in times of disaster and for special shipments.
The 250,000 N95 masks will diminish Direct Relief’s emergency PPE stockpile, which in recent weeks has been tapped to fill emergency requests from hundreds of U.S. health centers, clinics and hospitals in areas where Covid-19 cases have been confirmed.
Direct Relief has been working with global business partners for the past several weeks to secure replenishment stocks and has received indications that protective gear exports may soon resume from China, the world’s hub of PPE manufacturing.
Substantial recent donations will help Direct Relief cover the cost of purchasing new supplies of protective gear. While most of the medicine distributed by Direct Relief is donated by pharmaceutical makers, Direct Relief uses financial contributions it receives to purchase much of the PPE it then donates to health provider partners.
This week, the Clorox Company Foundation donated $3 million and Verizon donated $2.5 million in support of Direct Relief’s work to help frontline health care workers keep themselves safe while treating Covid-19 patients.
A recent Direct Relief survey of 612 community health providers found that 71% were very concerned or moderately concerned about their ability to manage a surge of Covid-19 patients, while only 28% were confident that they could secure a sufficient supply of PPE in the next one to two months.
“Direct Relief has never rested for a moment to ensure the nation’s Community Health Centers are ready to respond to any disaster or any public health emergency,” said Ronald Yee, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “Working with NACHC to deliver these absolutely necessary and life-saving personal protection equipment supplies is a testament to the strength of our partnership. We still have much to do in responding to Covid-19, but together we—NACHC, Direct Relief, and Community Health Centers—will continue to be on the front lines every day responding for our communities.”
“Free and Charitable Clinics are on the front lines providing access to health care and battling Covid-19 for over 2 million patients in communities throughout the U.S.,” said Nicole Lamoureux, President and CEO of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. “In the face of this pandemic, our member organizations are challenged with dwindling resources and limited access to personal protective equipment for their staff and volunteers. This donation will allow clinics to continue the important work of providing health care to the uninsured and combating Covid-19, while ensuring their staff, volunteers and patients are safe in this uncertain time.”
As global supply chains have contracted as a result of the pandemic, Direct Relief has expanded its operations in the U.S. and globally.
Since January, Direct Relief has donated more than 966,000 N95 and surgical masks, more than 1.5 million gloves, and other items such as protective suits, to help safeguard health workers throughout the U.S. and internationally.
In the past week alone, Direct Relief has sent 900 deliveries to U.S. safety-net facilities, as well as hospitals and public health agencies.
Direct Relief also has proactively secured equipment and supplies for U.S. health facilities, including oxygen concentrators, projected to be necessary to treat Covid-19 patients recovering from the virus.