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The Struggle to Secure PPE for Primary Care Providers

CAFP member Fred Grover, Jr., MD, FAAFP, a Family Medicine Physician in the Denver metro area, recently faced a difficult situation: an employee in his office tested positive for COVID-19. He tells his story below:

[The employee] had a fever with cough eight days ago and could not get tested till last Wednesday.

I am asymptomatic, but need to know if I’m a carrier for obvious reasons: I will be seeing patients for urgent care at my family practice, and my wife is in a senior position in the NICU at another hospital. I also need to get my other staff tested, especially those who came within three feet or less of the infected employee prior to the fever.

We do not have good information available to us about where physicians and staff can get tested, especially because we are not employees of a university or a large hospital network. There aren’t good resources online, and I spent hours on the phone with the local public health department but came away with no answers.

I called the CDPHE hotline, but they told me to call local county health. After a long hold, I got through and they told me to call Denver Public Health. So I called the DPH nurse hotline, but all the lines were busy. How are we supposed to protect ourselves and our staff with such poor resourcing? None of the phone menus provided a means for physicians, front-line healthcare workers, or first-responders to access testing information. This virus has been advancing for weeks — why isn’t such an option in place for us?

Family Physicians are facing dire circumstances right now, and the whole situation is teetering on disaster. The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) is unacceptable, especially since we have known this virus is aggressive and dangerous since January. Other countries have been able to scale up their testing and PPE manufacturing. Why can’t we?

I struggle to hold any hope in the local and federal government management of this crisis, especially after my experience this morning failing to get support for everyone in my practice who was directly exposed to COVID-19.

We family docs need to have hope and faith in each other. I will continue my frontline work with my N-95 mask that I had in office way before this pandemic came about (imagine that, a family doc that thought ahead to have masks before a pandemic).

Be kind to each other.

– Fred

In the meanwhile, we at CAFP are continuously updating our COVID-19 Resources page. Please check it for new information about the state’s pandemic response.