Cottage Health asked and the local community delivered.
As hospitals around the nation and across the globe face a surge in patients in search of assessment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for personal-protective equipment continues to grow.
Cottage Health is no exception, as officials with the local health system say they have gone from using 25 N95 masks per day across its hospitals to now using 500. While officials are confident that Cottage Health will be able to continue to provide top-notch service going forward, a drive-through collection center was opened Tuesday adjacent to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital for members of the public to donate medical supplies.
“There’s a real short supply of what they call PPE — personal-protective equipment, so we just reached out to the community to see if they could help out in our time of need,” said Noel Skaling, director of supply chain management for Cottage Health. “Santa Barbara is awesome and we have a great community. Just like any other crisis, they come together and I think that happened today, which is really cool.”
Items collected included face shields and eye shields, isolation gowns and gloves, as well as protective masks. Mr. Skaling estimated that as many as 10,000 masks were donated Tuesday.
“You’ve seen the curves everywhere else, but we want to make sure the Santa Barbara community is safe,” he said. “We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
The N95 masks have become a more common sight in recent days while out in public. Mr. Skaling also mentioned that many residents have been given masks for protection during recent wildfires, which may explain why so many were donated Tuesday.
“Two years ago, people really stockpiled them and people realized they had them,” he said. “Now we’ve gotten those back.”
Whether a group or organization donated hundreds of items, or individuals approached with one or two masks, all the donations were gladly accepted. At least one person was at the donation tent some 20 minutes before it was opened, while a group of local nail salons came together to give hundreds of masks.
“It’s been from all arenas and all walks of life,” Mr. Skaling said.
Nick Savage, of Goleta, made a stop at Goleta Valley Paint and purchased 20 N95 masks that he then donated for local healthcare workers.
“I figured why not?” Mr. Savage said. “My dad said that if I can then I should do it, so I just decided to go make it happen.
“It seems like they are definitely available, but they just need to make it here.”
Some donors, like Mr. Savage, elected to remain in their vehicles while dropping off items — “You can’t blame them, right?” Mr. Skaling asked.
An employee from Larry’s Auto Parts visited the donation center Tuesday afternoon with a large box of masks which had been on display for purchase at the car shop. Officials at the donation center said the employee drove by in the afternoon and decided to donate them “so they’re put to good use.”
Cottage Health President and CEO Ron Werft issued a community note Monday morning, sharing that the local hospital system has been working since January to address a project supply shortage of materials. He wrote that Cottage Health has approximately 37,400 N95 masks, more than 800,000 gloves in stock, as well as 39 adult and pediatric ventilators, with another 21 on order.
“On behalf of all the healthcare workers on the frontlines of fighting this virus, I ask for the community’s support. We need you now more than ever to stand with us in safeguarding the health of this community,” Mr. Werft wrote.
The donation center will be open for at least the remainder of the week, operating from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the parking lot at 351 S. Patterson Ave.