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Hospitals worry of shortages as first responders, medical workers use more protective equipment

West Metro Fire will now respond to all medical calls in full hazmat gear.

DENVER — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in a news conference Monday said there is a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), like gowns and masks, for first responders in Denver as more workers take precautions to keep themselves and patients safe. 

“It’s definitely a different response than we’re traditionally used to," said West Metro Fire Lieutenant Mike Binney. "But it’s still a medical call we just have different fun clothes we get to wear for that.

All West Metro Firefighters will put on a hazmat suit, mask, and protective eyewear for every medical call. 

“We don’t want to become the vector of transmission because we are that first line of responders when somebody twists their ankle or they have COVID-19," said Binney. 

He said their supply line will be OK, but hospitals are concerned. 

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Denver Health and Children's Hospital of Colorado both say they have a shortage of PPE. 

"More PPE is being used to properly protect our patients, families and staff," said Jaime Berg, a spokesperson with Children's. "Suppliers are doing what they can to fill our needs, but the demand is simply greater than the supply."

At National Jewish Health, the 119 critical care beds they manage at ICUs in the Denver area are using extra precautions because they aren't able to test everyone. 

“We treat them as if they are infected and we are using up a lot of personal protective equipment that might not otherwise be used if we knew they were not infected," said National Jewish spokesperson William Allstetter. 

While Allstetter said their own hospital's supply is good right now, he worries a shortage could come. 

“We are concerned about future supplies," said Allstetter. "We don’t know what the demand will be in the next two weeks or so and exactly what our supplies will be able to handle." 

In a news conference on Monday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis said they have already deployed state supplies of PPE.

“We are doing everything we can to tap into the emergency federal supply," he said. 

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