Securing personal protective equipment has been a challenge for some local hospitals, but small- and medium-sized practices have been hit the hardest during the coronavirus pandemic, preventing many from operating.
Small- to medium-sized practices include those with one to two physicians on site to up to 50.
To help ease the burden on many, California Medical Association partnered with the California Office of Emergency Services to provide free medical grade PPE Thursday. More than 40 Bakersfield College students volunteered to pass out PPE as well.
Approximately 155 practices, including obstetricians and gynecologists, pediatrics, cardiology and ophthalmology offices in Kern County, received at least a two-month supply of relief, which included N95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, gloves and face shields.
"As the pandemic has evolved, it’s become more of a chronic problem for them. Their supply chain has pretty much evaporated so that’s prevented many of them to function," explained Mike Steenburgh, vice president of membership, marketing and component relations for the California Medical Association.
Each practice that registered for Thursday's event received one box full of PPE. Some of the larger offices will receive additional supplies delivered to them over the next month.
Chrisy Muchow, executive director of the Kern County Medical Society, said it's been a great experience being able to help small- and medium-sized practices in recent weeks and that the level of appreciation from them has been "an awesome thing to see."
"We were calling practices during the registration period, and I had people cry because they were so excited they’d get PPE," Muchow explained. "I had people express they couldn’t get certain kinds of PPE because their distributors wouldn’t give them anything they hadn’t ordered prior to COVID."
Many of the phone calls made her cry as well, she added.
As someone who is studying to become a nurse, BC student Blanca Ceja said she was glad she volunteered Thursday to help local practices. It's given her a firsthand look at how difficult it has been for some offices to secure basic PPE for employees during the pandemic, but how there are always people out there willing to help.
Dealing with a pandemic has been tough on nurses, but rather than turning her away from the field, these last few months have given her even more motivation to start her career and help others.
"It makes me excited. More people are feeling gratitude toward essential workers and are showing their appreciation that it's pushing me to go into the field," she explained.