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President and CEO Brendan Williams of the NH Health Care Association demonstrates how the protective gown sent by FEMA does not have slots for hands.

FEMA Sends ‘Garbage Bag’ Gowns, ‘Underwear’ Masks to Nursing Homes

In our national nightmare that is COVID-19, every deadly failure of leadership has hit the residents of nursing homes first and hit them the hardest. As the federal government executes its inexcusably late and inept response to the pandemic, long-awaited personal protective equipment (PPE) is arriving at nursing homes, and what they have sent is an insult to nursing home residents and staff. In New Hampshire, they received glorified garbage bags as medical gowns, uselessly small gloves, and masks made from cloth that is inappropriate for use in a medical setting.

Brendan Williams, the president/CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, invited reporters to witness the useless (and probably expensive) load of garbage that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the Trump administration is calling PPE.

Williams modeled FEMA’s laughable excuse for a gown for reporters and offered this description for McKnights Long-Term Care News:

“Instead of fluid-impermeable, disposable isolation gowns, nursing homes received bright blue, unlabeled rectangular bags. ... the bags, made of garbage bag material, had no holes through which functioning arms or hands could protrude. When I wore them for reporters, they were enormous on me, and I’m 6’3” tall and weigh 220 pounds.”

FEMA also sent the New Hampshire nursing homes extra-small, child-size gloves, which were virtually useless to the vast majority of health care workers. The masks that they received came in two interesting varieties: one with paper ear hooks that ripped when the wearer attempted to stretch them over their face; the other made of underwear-type cloth, despite the fact that cloth-based masks have been deemed unsuitable for a clinical environment.

FEMA sent useless 'garbage bag' gowns to nursing homes

President and CEO Brendan Williams of the NH Health Care Association demonstrates how the protective gown sent by FEMA does not have slots for hands [Photo: AP | Charles Krupa].

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States it entered through the country’s most gaping vulnerability: the nursing home. The very first deadly outbreak was at a nursing home in Washington State, and today somewhere between 30% and 40% of the total deaths due to COVID-19 have been nursing home residents. Although the elderly are more susceptible to deadly outcomes of COVID, this disaster is man-made. It is the logical outcome of a business that knew about its lack of preparedness for even mild flu seasons, and was too focused on profit and too remorseless to its role in the preventable deaths of its customers.

Now it seems that the sad truth is that the elderly in nursing homes face a disease that is particularly deadly to them, a nursing home industry that never cared enough to protect them from even routine infections, and now, a government that is too dysfunctional, corrupt, and incompetent to send help.


Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing nursing home residents who have been neglected or abused. We know first-hand how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.

To learn more about how the coronavirus is affecting nursing homes and their residents, visit our COVID Resource Center. To contact our team, call (410) 698-1717 today for a consultation.

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