The Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State is accepting donations of facemasks, hand sanitiser and other personal protective equipment. Credit: Courtesy of the Wexner Medical Center

Like many other hospitals, the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State is fighting the national shortage of medical supplies amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The medical center began accepting donations of personal protective equipment Monday, according to a release from the medical center. A drop-off site on Ackerman Road is accepting unopened and sealed equipment, such as surgical masks, medical gowns, hand sanitizer and medical goggles.

Hal Mueller, chief supply chain officer at the medical center, said the donation center was started after the hospital was “flooded” with donation offers from community members and equipment vendors.

“The message has gone out loud and clear about the fact that PPE, as we call it — personal protection equipment — is in very short supply,” Mueller said.

The nationwide shortage of PPE is putting health care workers at an increased risk of exposure to the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

Though medical facilities are optimizing their supplies of facemasks, gowns and eye protection in accordance with guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hospitals have a limited supply of PPE on hand.

Vendors are allocating equipment based on how much each medical facility used at the end of February, before the large spike of confirmed COVID-19 cases, Mueller said.

At the beginning of March, supplies were “extremely” restrictive, he said, but now there are “signs of additional inventory being made available.”

Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, said Monday in a press conference that Ohio has a limited supply of PPE and would provide local health departments with small boxes of the equipment.

On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence called for businesses and manufacturers to donate any PPE they have.

“This is a great time to go to your storeroom, and if you have N95 masks, if you’ve got a hundred of them, if you’ve got 10,000 of them, is to load them up, drive them over to your local hospital,” Pence said.

The drive-thru donation center is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, according to the press release.

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods by any means,” Mueller said. “But we’re starting to see that where, in the past, the supply availability was extremely restrictive, now it’s a question of trying to just vet the real vendors from people just trying to make a buck.”

There are 867 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 15 people have died due to complications with the disease, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s website. On March 18, Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake said in a universitywide email that two members of the Ohio State community had tested positive for COVID-19.