Nonprofit community providers said they feel forgotten when it comes to the state’s distribution of personal protective equipment.
Oak Hill is a private nonprofit organization that runs 80 group homes for the children and adults with developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities.
Barry Simon, president of Oak Hill, said they currently have 18 homes where either a staff member or a client has tested positive for COVID-19 and they’ve only received 50 masks from the state of Connecticut.
The state pays Oak Hill through the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to care for these individuals, but Simon said Thursday that the agencies have ignored their requests for PPE.
“They say they want to give us supplies, and they keep promising they are coming, but those promises are empty,” Simon said.
“In the past six weeks we’ve received 50 masks,” Simon added.
Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of The Alliance, said it’s a real frustration for many of his members.
“Provider after provider has said they’re just not getting it,” Casa said Thursday.
Simon said the problems seem to underscore the need for some type of centralized supply chain.
Josh Geballe, Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief operating officer, said there should be no problem with PPE.
“We’ve been fulfilling orders every day through our mutual aid programs for our direct care providers who have needs,” Geballe said.
He said the state of Connecticut has received nearly 50% of the orders that have been placed and over the next two weeks they expect to receive another 34%.
“We’re getting increasingly well-fortified in our state warehouse,” Geballe said. “We’re expecting one particularly large delivery this weekend.”
The Department of Developmental Services, which fund some of the nonprofit agencies like Oak Hill, said it plans to get more supplies to the nonprofits this week.
“DDS received a large shipment of PPE this week and is currently finalizing a plan to release a two week supply of masks and gloves to providers next week. DDS residential providers will be receiving additional communication on the distribution process for this PPE in the coming days,” a spokewoman for the agency said.
Lamont said he was very worried about Connecticut’s supply of PPE “up until a couple of weeks ago.”
Geballe said he’s also seen that sometimes people think they need a higher level of PPE than is actually necessary.
Simon scoffed at the suggestion. He said he’s not sending his staff into a room with a positive patient without the proper PPE.
Geballe said he’s not saying that applies to this current situation, but they’ve seen that at times.
Lamont said the medical supplies are arriving and hospitalizations are down, “which for Dr. Ko and myself are a key metric” they will use to decide how quickly to reopen. The state is planning for its first phase of reopening on May 20.
As far as testing, “I think we can get the capacity up there,” but as far as everyone getting tested, “That’s something we have to work on,” Lamont said.
There are still some hotspots in Connecticut for COVID-19.
The virus has been difficult to contain at nursing homes and other congregate care settings.
Geballe said as recently as this past weekend they are now sending teams into nursing homes to test everyone.
“We’re increasing testing in nursing homes as supplies have become more available,” Geballe said.