Tzu Chi USA’s Ongoing Response to COVID-19: Providing PPE in the Las Vegas Area

National Headquarters  | April 27, 2020
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Vincenzo Variale (center), CEO of North Vista Hospital, discovers more about Tzu Chi's missions from the Tzu Chi USA Journal volunteers brought. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

Written by Audrey Cheng
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Tzu Chi USA Medical Foundation, under the leadership of CEO Dr. William Keh, is diligently supporting the urgent needs of healthcare workers across the United States. They are struggling to cope with severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) on the frontlines of treating COVID-19 patients, and Tzu Chi is doing its utmost to help fill the demand. This outreach is vital; reports indicate that the Novel Coronavirus is killing far more U.S. healthcare workers than official data suggests.

In Nevada, Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center volunteers have been donating PPE to healthcare institutions in their region. Between April 15-17, their distributions reached the Lung Center of Nevada, Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, North Vista Hospital, Select Physical Therapy, North Rainbow myGeneration Senior Clinic of HealthCare Partners Nevada, Las Vegas Neurology Clinic, and Humanity Health Center, and Julie Wu Inc. Medical Group.

Lung Center of Nevada

Tzu Chi sometimes learns about a lack of supplies through a personal connection, as was the case regarding the Lung Center of Nevada. A volunteer heard from Dr. George S. Tu, a pulmonologist who practices at the clinic, that it was short of medical masks. The facility, a division of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, provides services for patients with lung cancer and pulmonary diseases. Its staff is particularly at high risk during the pandemic, since they’re in constant contact with coughing patients. 

Dr. Tu was invited to come to the Las Vegas Service Center, where on April 4, he gladly picked up 500 surgical masks for the Lung Center of Nevada.

Dr. George S. Tu (center), from the Lung Center of Nevada, picks up 500 surgical masks for the clinic on April 4. He also learns more about Tzu Chi through the publications at the Las Vegas Service Center. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

Summerlin Hospital Medical Center

On April 15, 2020, Summerlin Hospital Medical Center was about to run out of face masks and asked the community for help. Through luck and timing, Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center was immediately able to come to the rescue. As it happens, volunteers had just received an order of medical masks from China, and without delay, they delivered 1,000 surgical masks to the hospital, helping to mitigate its urgent need. 

Dr. George S. Tu (center), from the Lung Center of Nevada, picks up 500 surgical masks for the clinic on April 4. He also learns more about Tzu Chi through the publications at the Las Vegas Service Center. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

Robert Dunson, from the Materials Management Department, accepted the donation on behalf of Summerlin Hospital Medical Center. He told the volunteers that the hospital has about 1,500 employees, and is currently treating COVID-19 patients. He was concerned that more PPE would be required to protect frontline healthcare workers. The volunteers asked him to submit another online request to Tzu Chi for PPE when needed, and they promised to allocate the supplies and personally deliver them.

Robert Dunson (left), from the Materials Management Department, accepts the donation of surgical masks on behalf of Summerlin Hospital Medical Center. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng
Robert Dunson (second left) is relieved after Tzu Chi volunteers assure him that more personal protective equipment can be provided to Summerlin Hospital Medical Center when needed. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

North Vista Hospital

Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center volunteers provided PPE to North Vista Hospital on April 16, delivering 1,000 surgical masks. It is the only hospital in North Las Vegas, providing comprehensive medical services and 177-beds. 

Vincenzo Variale, North Vista Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, and hospital spokeswoman Susan Olsen accepted the medical masks on behalf of the institution, and its 800 healthcare workers.

North Vista Hospital is currently treating COVID-19 patients, and on the day this donation was made, Nevada reported 2,800 confirmed cases and 112 deaths in the state. 

Vincenzo Variale (second left), CEO, and Susan Olsen (right), hospital spokeswoman, accept Tzu Chi USA’s donation of PPE on behalf of North Vista Hospital. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

Select Physical Therapy

On April 17, Tzu Chi volunteers donated 300 surgical masks to Select Physical Therapy, which has 12 clinics in Las Vegas. There are about 2-3 rehabilitation therapists and 2-3 staff serving the public in each clinic.

Due to limited stock, the clinics had been giving their rehabilitation therapists just one mask per week and were concerned about their safety. The surgical masks donated by the Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center will help fill the gap in their needs. 

A Select Physical Therapy rehabilitation clinic in Las Vegas, where staff and therapists are short of PPE. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng
Erica, one of the therapists on site, accepts the medical masks on behalf of Select Physical Therapy. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng
Tzu Chi USA’s donation of 300 surgical masks will help fill the gap in supply at Select Physical Therapy clinics in Las Vegas. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

North Rainbow myGeneration Senior Clinic

North Rainbow myGeneration Senior Clinic, part of HealthCare Partners Nevada, specializes in the treatment of patients over 65 years of age. 

The elderly and those with low immunity are at particular risk of infection and death during the pandemic. To help protect patients and healthcare staff, Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center donated 100 surgical masks to the clinic on April 17. Dr. Dan Hansen accepted the donation on behalf of the clinic.

HealthCare Partners Nevada operates 23 MyGen clinics providing care for seniors. The PPE Tzu Chi USA donated will help protect patients and staff. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

Las Vegas Neurology Clinic

The Las Vegas Neurology Clinic, regularly packed with patients, is staffed by nearly 70 healthcare workers. Some of the staff are designated to measure temperatures as patients arrive at the clinic’s entrance. However, due to a shortage of medical masks for protection, many are anxious when doing this job.

On April 17, Georgia, a nurse working at the clinic, explained the situation to a Tzu Chi volunteer, exclaiming, “Zero mask inventory!” Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center mobilized immediately and volunteers delivered medical masks to the clinic by the end of the day. The donation of 350 surgical masks brought cheers from the doctors and nurses on duty at the time.

A Tzu Chi volunteer delivers urgently needed PPE to the Las Vegas Neurology Clinic on April 17. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

Humanity Health Center

The Humanity Health Center, where all the healthcare workers speak Chinese and care for Chinese patients who don’t understand English, was also in dire need of PPE.

Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center provided 100 surgical masks without delay. Physician Assistant Kepeng Lu, who accepted the donation on April 17, expressed his gratitude to the volunteers who brought the precious supplies, in Chinese. 

Humanity Health Center in Las Vegas serves Chinese speaking patients who don’t understand any English. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng
Kepeng Lu (right) accepts the donation, on behalf of Humanity Health Center, and expresses his thanks in Chinese. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

Julie Wu Inc. Medical Group

Internist and Primary Care Physician Dr. Julie Wu has two practice medical offices located in Las Vegas. Tzu Chi USA donated 100 medical masks for her practices, helping to protect the staff at this critical time. Mickey, the Clinic Manager, gratefully accepted the donation on behalf of everyone working there.

Dr. Wu, and several doctors working at her offices, routinely volunteer their services during Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) medical outreach events offered by Tzu Chi USA Medical Foundation. Providing the masks was also a way to show appreciation for their volunteer medical care to help those in need in the United States and internationally.

The Clinic Manager accepts the donation on behalf of everyone working at Julie Wu Inc. Medical Group. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng
Tzu Chi USA donates PPE to Dr. Julie Wu’s practice medical offices in Las Vegas on April 17. Photo / courtesy of Audrey Cheng

A Three-Day Mission of Care Accomplished in Las Vegas

The three days of distribution in April by volunteers from Tzu Chi USA’s Las Vegas Service Center benefited eight healthcare facilities and their affiliates in the Las Vegas, Nevada area. But such missions must continue if we’re to put the brakes on the spread of COVID-19.

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