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Short on crucial supplies, hospitals ask community for donations

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

Right now, in a number of Michigan hospitals, it's the calm before the storm.  Many hospitals in the state are caring for only a handful of COVID-19 patients. But that's expected to change swiftly in the next two to three weeks.

Gearing up for the expected surge is proving to be very difficult. Hospitals are having trouble locating enough personal protective gear via their normal supply channels, including disposable masks, gloves, caps, foot covers, and gowns, as well as face masks, N95 respirator masks, face shields and safety goggles.

Michigan Medicine began accepting donations of these items on Saturday.

A steady stream of people showed up throughout the day, some dropping off a lone box of non-latex gloves, others with a back seat and trunk full of supplies.

Helping to direct cars and unload supplies was Janet Abbruzzese, the Director of Supply Chain Strategy at Michigan Medicine. 

"We were overwhelmed by offers from the community," she says of the idea to set up a drop-off center, "and it truly is humbling, so we wanted to have one location so we could manage everything." 

Duc Tang showed up with boxes and boxes of non-latex gloves. He's the owner and chef of Pacific Rim, which is closed now except for carryout orders.

"I order them in bulk," he says, "so I'm sitting on a few cases of gloves that I'm not using right now. So I thought they'd have better use for them than I do at this point."
Tang says he was happy to have the chance to show support for the physicians and other health care professionals on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis.
"They are a big part of our clientele," he says.  "So we feel like they've given us a lot of business over the years, so anything that we can do to help and give back, we'd love to."
Eddie Harwood had some N95 masks at home, but not much of anything else. So he went shopping.

"I went to Sherwin Williams, Walgreens, and Ace Hardware," he says, where he found disposable foot covers, gowns, and gloves.  

Credit Kara Gavin / Michigan Medicine
Michigan Medicine
Michigan Medicine sorts donated medical supplies from the community

Kristin Johnson volunteered to unload supplies.  She's a dentist at Liberty Dental, which is also closed, except for emergencies.  She also donated materials.

"Since we're not able to work currently, I donated all my personal protective gear," says Johnson.  "I kept enough so that I can continue to see my emergency patients, but the rest of it I brought here."

Johnson says she's encouraging other dentists to do the same.

Mary Jo Callan is the Director of the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning at the U of M.  She donned a mask to volunteer to accept donations.  She says the response, people's stories and goodwill lifted her spirits.

"We know that it's good for our own mental health when we are contributing to the greater good," she says, "and all of us here today are feeling that."

In addition to Michigan Medicine, Beaumont Health System and Henry Ford Health System are also accepting supplies.

Currently accepted items are:

New or unused:

  • Disposable face masks
  • N95 masks, sometimes called respirators
  • Eye protection including face shields and safety goggles
  • Disposable gowns
  • Disposable gloves, especially non-latex
  • Disposable surgical caps
  • Disposable foot covers
  • Wipes: bleach or antimicrobial
  • Hand sanitizer

More specialized items:

  • PAPRs (powered air-purifying respirators) and PAPR hoods
  • Nasal testing swabs
  • Viral testing kits

Michigan Medicine's donation center is at the U of M's North Campus Research Complex, at the corner of Huron Parkway and Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor. The site is the former Pfizer complex that U-M purchased ten years ago.  It will be open from noon to 5 daily until further notice.
Beaumont's donation site is at the Beaumont Service Center, 26901 Beaumont Blvd, in Southfield.   Donation bins are available 24/7.

Henry Ford Health System is accepting donations 11-4 p.m. on Sundays, beginning March 22, and from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday, at the shipping and receiving docks at:

  •  Henry Ford’s corporate offices, located at One Place Drive, between Second and Third streets, 3 ½ blocks south of West Grand Boulevard in Detroit.
  •  Henry Ford Allegiance Health, 205 N. East Avenue, Jackson.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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