Cottage Reports ‘Emergency-Level’ Shortage of Protective Respirators for Staff

Additionally, 194,000 N95 Masks Arrived from State Cache in ‘Unusable Condition’

Cottage Health says its supply of 108 PAPR (powered air-purifying respirator) shields — such as the kind worn here by a U.S. Army nurse — constitutes an "emergency-level" shortage. | Credit: Courtesy

In a letter sent Thursday evening to Cottage Health staff, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Edmund M. Wroblewski described “emergency-level” shortages of certain protective equipment for doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients. 

Wroblewski also stated that the 194,000 N95 masks Cottage recently received from the state cache are “unusable in their current condition.” 


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“Unfortunately, while in the state inventory, the elastic strap degraded over time and no longer functions,” he wrote. Cottage is now talking to local manufacturers about potential repairs.

Wroblewski’s letter was provided to the Independent by a member of Santa Barbara’s medical community, who wished to remain anonymous.

Cottage’s current supply of 108 PAPR (powered air-purifying respirator) shields ― full-face, battery-powered respirators worn by medical staff to protect them from contaminated air ― constitutes “an emergency-level shortage,” Wroblewski said. Orders for 6,400 more shields were placed in February and March, but the timing of their arrival is uncertain. “Testing is ongoing with UCSB and local tech companies for local production potential,” he said.

Based on their current inventory and usage rate, Wroblewski went on, Cottage Health has calculated the length of time other types of equipment are expected to last:

Isolation gowns (20,595) ― 15 days

Surgical masks (108,000) ― 37 days

Goggles (14,500) ― 182 days

Face shields (7,000) ― 188 days

With only a handful of disinfectant wipes remaining, staff have now been asked to use paper towels and spray bottles filled with a disinfectant formula to clean hard surfaces.

“Supply orders continue to arrive, and donated supplies are being collected at the [Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital] donation center,” Wroblewski said. “The Incident Command Center is working to identify every viable avenue to secure, reprocess, and produce supplies.”

The donation center is located in the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital parking lot and is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.


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