As everything is contracting, Direct Relief is expanding its coronavirus response efforts through the large-scale provision of PPE and other medical essentials.
As case totals grow, Direct Relief is focusing on the four key areas of activity:
- Providing assistance in the form of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health workers
- Building an ICU medication model and mobilizing private resources to build a stockpile to assist with anticipated spike in ICU patients
- Boosting support to safety-net facilities to address existing chronic gaps that are likely to grow
- Collaborating with infectious disease epidemiologists, technology companies and public agencies to use aggregated mobility data to support the COVID-19 response.
Protecting Health Workers
Staff with Ampla Health Care conduct Covid-19 testing at a drive-through site in Yuba City, California. The site was provided with protective gear from Direct Relief. (Photo by Renée C. Byer/ZUMA Wire)
Direct Relief maintains an emergency stockpile and, whenever possible, prepositions emergency caches of essentials that are likely to be needed immediately and can help avert or reduce the health effects of an emergency situation.
While responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in China, and seeing the rapid-onset shortages of PPE, treatment capacity, and unprecedented quarantines, Direct Relief reserved stocks and immediately began preparing for the expected arrival of the virus in the U.S., which has since occurred.
Bolstering Critical Care Capacity
Direct Relief has worked to get ahead of the anticipated spike in ICU patients in the U.S. by developing an ICU medications estimator and using that to build up a stockpile, recognizing that a rapid demand spike for ICU medications – which the organization is equipped to deal with because of its licensing and accreditation – was likely to result in the same type of stockouts of needed medications as had occurred with PPE in China.
A Direct Relief shipment coordinated by Wuhan United arrives in China. (Photo courtesy of Wuhan United)
Direct Relief receives substantial support from medical manufacturers, and is suppling hospitals, coordinating with the American Hospital Association, and sharing its assessment and inventory availability with public health agencies.
In addition, Direct Relief is delivering oxygen concentrators to have available for COVID-19 patients who may need oxygen supplementation during their recovery.
Oxygen concentrators can free up ICU beds by allowing patients to recover after they’ve been discharged while still receiving breathing assistance.
Investing in Community Health
As is the case in all emergencies, the pre-existing gaps get bigger fast as resources are redirected to the emergency.
Much of Direct Relief’s work is to ensure people who are least fortunate have access to medications to manage their chronic conditions.
The pressure in U.S. hospitals makes it even more important to ensure that people continue to manage their chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and asthma.
If they don’t, as often occurs during emergencies, people managing their chronic health conditions through their primary care health center can rapidly fall into acute crisis, which requires immediate, urgent hospital care.
Staff at Ubi Caritas Free Clinic in Beaumont, Texas, with Direct Relief donated protective gear. (Courtesy photo)
To support safety-net health workers serving America’s most vulnerable communities, Direct Relief has established the Covid-19 Fund for Community Health.
The Fund initially holds $25 million for disbursement to help health workers and facilities manage the strains put on them by Covid-19. The funds will be disbursed to community health centers, free & charitable clinics and pharmacies, and other community-based non-profit health providers in Direct Relief’s partner network. These providers focus on primary and preventive care and serve a relatively high proportion of patients with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
One major intended use of the funds is to help community health providers in cities have seen high Covid-19 fatality rates among African Americans, such as Detroit, New Orleans and New York City.
The Covid-19 Fund for Community Health is anchored by a $10 million donation from 3M, $8 million of which is to support health workers in the U.S., and $3.7 million raised on Easter Sunday by the Dance-a-Thon organized by entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Direct Relief will continue to support safety net facilities, which always serve to depressurize hospital visits and as triage points to optimize care, even as they respond to COVID-19.
Analyzing and Mapping Population Movements
To help inform decision-makers at the state and local levels on the efficacy of social distancing policies, Direct Relief is collaborating with infectious disease epidemiologists and technology companies to analyze and derive insights from aggregated mobility data.
Direct Relief is coordinating with public health authorities to provide personal protective equipment, or PPE, to health care workers in areas affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The organization’s most urgent need is to procure and replenish additional PPE items for future deployment.