Madison County leaders looking for solutions to potential medical mask shortage

Madison County leaders looking for solutions to potential medical mask shortage

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Masks are on the mind of Madison County’s leaders.

In subsequent press conferences on Wednesday and Thursday, government and health officials spoke about efforts to gain access to more “PPE” or Personal Protective Equipment (masks, gloves, etc...).

Medical professionals use this equipment when working with highly contagious patients, like those suspected of having COVID-19.

Wednesday, Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said local hospitals are prepared for the short term, but a drawn pandemic with high levels of in-patient care would require more gear.

“The concern is if we are not judicious and prudent about how we utilize them now, we won’t have enough for the long haul," she said.

In the same press conference, Madison County Chairman Dale Strong said the county is working to gain access to the national stockpile of equipment.

Thursday, Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said he expected a shipment from the stockpile that day. Additionally, he said hospitals were looking at delaying elective surgeries to save gear and local manufacturing to create more.

One such manufacturing operation is Pheonix, a south Huntsville based non-profit that gives people with disabilities jobs.

Pheonix President and CEO David Perez said the non-profit currently contracts with the federal government to provide goods, but it has the ability to switch gears to produce medical equipment.

“We have the showing machines, we have the people, we have the skill level," he said.

He said the non-profit has a team of 80 sewers could start making the gear, but there are two obstacles.

He said the first is Pheonix would need to get permission from the federal government to pause the production of the goods it’s currently producing as part of a contract.

The second is a lack of mask material. Without the proper material, no masks can be made.

The timeline to potentially overcome those obstacles is unclear.

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