Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, one of the nation’s leading cancer centers, is running out of masks.
BuzzFeed News is reporting that Sloan Kettering has just one week’s worth of masks on hand. Kreg Kolford, senior vice president of supply chain and sustaining care at the hospital, told employees that the shortage is due to COVID-19 production and distribution delays by manufacturers in China.
“It’s been a couple of months since new shipments have come,” said Kolford. “Their manufacturing is coming back online, but we will not likely see that for four to eight weeks.”
Mask factories in China are operating at “110 percent capacity,” according to NPR. Currently, of the 200 million masks China makes a day, only 600,000 are N95 standard masks, used by medical personnel.
Cancer centers like Sloan Kettering face a particularly troubling situation as many cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation treatment, can leave patients with compromised immune systems.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer patients face a 5.6% fatality rate if infected with the virus, compared to 0.9% in people with no underlying conditions.
Doctors have taken to social media to ask the public for help. Elizabeth Stover, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and instructor at Harvard Medical School, posted on Facebook a plea for help from the public.
Some of the top hospitals in the world – Mass General, Memorial Sloan Kettering – are at risk of running out of masks and other essential protective equipment for health care workers,” wrote Dr. Stover. “We need urgent action on a local basis to compile stocks from labs, businesses, and individuals to give to clinics and hospitals (in an organized manner), and on a state and federal basis to find ways to produce and distribute more of these critical items. If we lose the medical work force, what can we do?”
By Alan Lyndon