Pittsburgh TV station WTAE-TV 4 (ABC) recently featured a piece about the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA) investing $40,000 to purchase 1,000 masks for certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial for CRNAs, and the shortage of some material has been alarming. CRNAs often work with patients’ airways and perform intubations and other procedures. COVID-19 is a respiratory pandemic that is spread through coughing or sneezing, so our members are up close and at great risk.
To protect its members, the PANA board voted in March to have masks made for members who need them, or for those who may have been working in facilities where PPE was limited or quantities were diminishing. The focus was on those in hospitals in direct response and others in high-need areas.
All of this came after guidance came from the federal government that during shortages, any facial covering, even a bandanna, would be better than nothing.
At first, PANA allocated $20,000 for a first run of 500 masks. That first run was nearly accounted for in 48 hours. (CRNAs were made aware of the masks via email.) The board then allocated another $20,000 for 500 masks. All told, PANA is investing $40,000 for 1,000 masks.
These are not basic cloth masks, but rather advanced prototypes. The masks have been innovatively designed after extensive review of a variety of mask prototypes used by healthcare professionals. The masks are reusable and feature a filter, with three replacements.
The manufacturing is being done through a vendor from Evans City --- Ifft Enterprises, LLC, in Evans City in western Pennsylvania. Among the first order, and this is a large order, about 61 percent of the masks were manufactured in Evans City; the balance were made in Michigan by a subcontractor Ifft Enterprises works with during periods of high demand.
Each CRNA must request the mask individually. The manufacturer then ships the masks directly to the CRNA. But PANA is underwriting the full cost --- both manufacturing and shipping.
We are proud of the work CRNAs are doing to respond to this crisis and remain committed to doing all we can as an association to keep our CRNAs healthy and safe so they in turn can keep patients healthy and safe.