Top NYC hospital faces mask shortages as virus cases show up in staff and patients

The hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, has only a week’s supply of masks on hand, according to a transcript of a staff meeting last Friday afternoon. The shortage, Kreg Kolford, senior vice president of supply chain and sustaining care, told employees, is due to production and distribution delays in China, where most personal protective equipment, or PPE, is manufactured.

Hospitals around the country have been wrestling with shortages of PPE, beds, and ventilators amid mounting numbers of infected patients. But the shortage is particularly troubling at Sloan Kettering, the country’s oldest and largest private cancer hospital, because cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can leave patients with compromised immune systems. Preliminary data out of China suggests that cancer patients face a 5.6% fatality rate if infected with the virus, compared to 0.9% in people with no underlying conditions.

“It’s been a couple of months since new shipments have come,” said Kolford said of equipment. “Their manufacturing is coming back online, but we will not likely see that for four to eight weeks.”