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Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > 2020 > 4 > Hospitals report ‘severe shortages’ of COVID-19 tests, HHS survey finds

Hospitals report ‘severe shortages’ of COVID-19 tests, HHS survey finds

Posted 06 April 2020 | By Zachary Brennan 

Hospitals report ‘severe shortages’ of COVID-19 tests, HHS survey finds

The US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Monday released the results of telephone survey of 323 hospitals across 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, finding “severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results.” 
Hospitals reported that they were unable to keep up with COVID-19 testing demands because they lacked complete kits and/or the individual components and supplies needed to complete tests, including nasal swabs, viral transfer media and reagents used to detect the virus.

“One hospital administrator said that across the industry, ‘millions [of tests] are needed, and we only have hundreds.’ Without access to needed testing materials, some hospitals described dividing the media in COVID-19 kits in half to double their capacity and resorting to using the transfer media in flu and strep kits to provide testing,” the report says.

The report comes as President Donald Trump said last week, on a call with governors: “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”

In addition to the shortages of the tests, hospitals reported frequently waiting seven days or longer for test results, and when patient stays were extended while awaiting their results, bed availability becomes strained, as do personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and staffing.

“Hospitals’ reliance on external laboratories contributed to delays, particularly as these laboratories became overwhelmed with tests to process from around the State or country,” the report finds.

The survey, conducted 23-27 March, also found hospitals reporting “widespread shortages” of PPE that put staff and patients at risk. Other supplies are in shortage too, such as intravenous therapy (IV) poles, medical gas, linens, toilet paper and food, the report says. Others reported shortages of no-touch infrared thermometers, disinfectants and cleaning supplies.

As for ventilators, the survey says that hospitals “reported an uncertain supply of standard, full-feature ventilators and in some cases used alternatives to support patients, including adapting anesthesia machines and using single-use emergency transport ventilators. Hospitals anticipated that ventilator shortages would pose difficult decisions about ethical allocation and liability, although at the time of our survey no hospital reported limiting ventilator use.”

HHS OIG Report

Tags: coronavirus, IVDs, US

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