TRSA Advises House Committee on Reusable Healthcare Textiles
House Energy and Commerce Committee Members Reps. Richard Hudson (R-NC) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) recently released a Request for Information (RFI) in preparation of the upcoming Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) reauthorization due by Sept. 30. After shortages in supply at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, TRSA has led the effort to make reusable isolation gowns and other textiles more prominent in hospital inventories under PAHPA and provided the committee with information supporting this position.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed pre-existing problems and weaknesses in the healthcare system. Early in the pandemic, media reports across the country depicted makeshift alternatives to isolation gowns and masks, including nurses wearing trash bags and raincoats over their scrubs and using snorkels. This was due to widespread shortages in disposable products, including personal protective equipment (PPE), due to domestic and international supply chain disruptions.
In the U.S., more than 90% of healthcare PPE and operating room textiles are single use, even though ample supplies of reusable equivalents are available. By comparison, other countries such as Canada and England maintain inventories of 80% reusable healthcare textiles. Studies have found that reusable textiles are every bit as safe – if not safer – than their disposable counterparts.
As of October 2022, the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) contained 59.2 million surgical gowns and coveralls. It is unknown how many of these are reusable vs. disposable. Congress should ensure that the SNS contains a suitable number of reusable PPE to be prepared for supply-chain disruptions during an emergency. This could be done by either requiring a specific number or percentage of reusable PPE in the SNS. Reusable PPE can be laundered and returned to healthcare facilities without stressing the supply chain during an emergency.
“Throughout COVID-19, our nation learned there are improvements to be made in our preparedness for Public Health Emergencies,” Rep. Hudson said. “As I lead the process with my colleague, Rep. Eshoo, to improve our preparedness, I am seeking feedback and suggestions on how our country can be better prepared, further equipped, more transparent and fully accountable when taking on future emergencies. I look forward to reviewing the information submitted and continuing work on improving our nation’s response efforts.”
PAHPA was first signed into law in 2006, “to improve the nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response capabilities for emergencies, whether deliberate, accidental or natural.” This legislation authorized many of the federal government’s biodefense and pandemic preparedness programs, including the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the National Health Security Strategy (NHSS) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
Stay tuned to Textile Services Weekly for updates on TRSA’s efforts to increase the number of reusable isolation gowns and other textiles in the SNS. Questions? Contact TRSA’s Vice President of Government Relations Kevin Schwalb at email@example.com.