The Omaha metropolitan area’s three large health systems are all taking steps to conserve supplies, including prioritizing testing to people at greatest risk, decontaminating health care workers’ N95 masks with UV light to extend their life, and partnering with local makers to obtain plastic face shields and cloth covers for medical masks.

None reported being in the kind of dire straits that have emerged in places harder hit by the virus. But staying on the hunt for supplies that are in demand high across the country is a challenge, Methodist Health System officials said. Supply managers are also spending additional time vetting various sources to make sure that the products they’re offering meet federal requirements.

Testing supplies remain a particular bottleneck. Dr. Cliff Robertson, CHI Health’s chief executive, said the item on his radar this week is the liquid used to transport swabs for testing. The health system was expecting a delivery on Monday, April 13.

Otherwise, he said, the health system is in a relatively good position. It’s using about 5,000 masks a day but has begun doing some work with UV light decontamination and obtaining 3D-printed face shields through Creighton University.

But the health system has not yet seen a huge surge in patients compared with those in New York, Detroit and New Orleans, Robertson said. Part of the larger CommonSpirit Health system, it can move supplies around nationally, and within its coverage area in Nebraska and Iowa, to meet demand. The health system is trying to ramp up communications internally about supply levels so it can better help departments or locations that have short supplies.

Methodist officials said almost all test collection supplies are on back order until May. Current inventory is being consolidated and reallocated to expand testing capacities.

Methodist, like Nebraska Medicine, has instituted a UV disinfection program to allow health care workers to reuse N95 masks. Nebraska Medicine is collecting elastic so a group of crafters can make masks from surgical draping, an official said, but those will be limited to areas where patient care is not occurring.

Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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