Private medical practices struggle to get supplies amid coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak

NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Handling the COVID-19 outbreak is straining medical practices everywhere. We've heard about the situation for major hospitals, but smaller offices are struggling, too.

The Mercado Medical Practice in Northeast Philadelphia is used to handling chronic diseases, but they are not used to navigating that care in the midst of a pandemic.

One staffer used her cell phone to give us a glimpse their "new normal."

Dr. Max Mercado's practice prided itself on close, personal care. That's changed drastically in a week.

"Nobody comes with family members. They come by themselves. Family members have to stay outside the premises," said Dr. Mercado.

Every spot in the office is cleaned daily.

The 12 rooms used by Dr. Mercado and his partners are cleaned with industrial disinfectants before and after every patient, but the doctor says he's had trouble getting CDC guidance on what products do kill the coronavirus.

It's also been hard to get guidance about how much protection surgical masks will give.

Dr. Mercado says more patients than ever are calling, worried about this invisible threat.

"The phones are ringing constantly, about twice the normal amount, to send them to the right places," he said.

But the biggest worry is getting more masks, gowns, and other supplies.

"We looked online, but they were all gone at this point. But, you know, we go through our vendors," said Dr. Mercado. "The vendors told us they're all back ordered."

With no indication when more will come in, one Georgia hospital has resorted to enlisting local seamstresses to make covers, so they can use their masks again and again.

It hopes to make 200,000 in the coming weeks.

A hospital in Washington state isn't just making masks, it's using materials from the hardware store to make face shields to keep doctors and nurses from contracting the coronavirus.

Dr. Mercado is glad he bought some extra stock in December, but he worries that if the US outbreak is prolonged, many private practices could run out of supplies.
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.