In several places around the country and now locally in Seward, volunteers are sewing homemade face masks to give to health care providers and nursing homes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Seward County, Memorial Health Care Systems said it can't use homemade masks right now and it doesn't want them brought to the hospital, but it does want to hear from people who are willing to donate masks and other items if the need arises.
“There is no study confirming that those are safe for healthcare personnel to use. At this time we aren't able to accept any homemade masks,” said Mallory Gibreal, director of community relations for MHCS.
Some posts on social media, including the Seward (Nebraska) Community Chat Facebook page, have spread misinformation about what hospitals do and don't need and how prepared they are to protect patients and staff.
The hospital has accepted medical masks from Southeast Community College, and the Nebraska Hospital Association has issued a plea for businesses like tattoo parlors, dental offices or hair salons to donate supplies like gloves, especially since those places are now shut down in areas where community spread of COVID-19 has begun.
Roger Reamer, CEO of Memorial Health Care Systems, said the hospital wants people to call first if they have something they're willing to donate.
“We're trying to be careful on our staff's workload,” Reamer said. “If anybody's got anything they're willing to donate, call in first. We may say 'no thanks,' but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate it. It just means we may not be able to use them or put them into play.”
He said the hospital doesn't want people dropping stuff off because it creates more work for staff who have to manage those supplies.
However, MHCS wants to know who is willing to contribute in the future.
“We're a little limited on what we can do and what we can accept at this time, but we're really grateful for the offers,” Gibreal said. “We are accepting messages of support.”
People should call (402) 646-4707 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if they can contribute and their name will be put on a list.
“We're interested in ways individuals are offering to help. If it opens up that we can accept things like that, we can get back in touch with them,” Gibreal said.
What about nursing homes?
Nebraska’s assisted living and nursing facilities are working to prevent the coronavirus from impacting their residents. The Nebraska Health Care Association is asking businesses to consider donating items such as face masks and shields, disposable gloves, scrubs, and alcohol-based sanitizer to their local assisted living or nursing facilities.
“We’re hearing from our peers in other states that otherwise unconventional partners to long-term care are donating items and playing a part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus in their local assisted living or nursing facility,” said Heath Boddy, NHCA president and CEO. “We’ve even heard that local businesses, such as clothes manufacturers, are shifting their focus to the production of hospital gowns. If Nebraskans are looking for ways to help our state in this pandemic, these are great examples of how they can do that.”
NHCA recommends businesses and organizations—including dental clinics, veterinarians, schools, brewing companies, salons, tattoo parlors and textile, manufacturing and construction companies—contact their local assisted living facility or nursing home to determine its needs and ability to receive the items.