Doctors in private practices report difficulties finding PPE

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Doctors in private practices across the state are reporting they've had challenges finding personal protective equipment.

Dr. Monica Gaupp, who is a pediatrician in Eagle River and operates her own practice, said she hasn’t been able to get her hands on an N95 mask that she would be comfortable using. So, she sees most of her patients via telemedicine, and only brings them in when there’s no other way to treat them - for example, for vaccinations.

“Just operating without actually touching and seeing my patients in the flesh is remarkably difficult in the field of pediatrics,” she said. “And the telemedicine approach has been helpful, but a huge strain on the ability to do our jobs.”

She and her staff have taken extra precautions by screening all the patients before they are guided in, giving them masks, and instructing them to wash their hands. It’s partly to keep patients safe and healthy, and partly because her office simply does not have the PPE to protect themselves in case someone with COVID-19 was seen there.

Gaupp has been trying to get a hold of an N95 mask before cases came to Anchorage. She requested PPE from the Municipality of Anchorage Emergency Operations Center, she said. She was given masks that expired in 2003.

"I don't feel comfortable using something that is 17 years out of date,” she said.

The Anchorage EOC said that it has been taking donations of masks from the public, but that the process has been slow going. Officials closed a drop off-site on Thursday because of the lack of donations.

They also said they will be following up with Guapp on her delivery.

“At this time, the State of Alaska distributes PPE only for testing purposes or emergency response," said Clinton Bennett, Department of Health and Social Services communications director. "For any other medical needs, providers can use their normal supply chains."

“I imagine that if there are stocks that are not expired they're going to the hospital staff and I understand that,” Guapp said, “but unfortunately, especially with the restrictions being lifted now, we are going to be the canaries in the coal mine. We are going to start seeing the patients who are becoming symptomatic, and we need to protect ourselves."

Dr. Gaupp said the community has been incredibly helpful with donations. The office has a solid amount of surgical masks and face shields.

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