Medical providers running out of crutches, walkers, wheelchairs; donation of items being requested

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ST. GEORGE — Health providers on the local, state and national level say they are running out of something they never thought they would run out of: crutches, walkers and nonmotorized wheelchairs.

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St. George Regional Hospital and other health facilities in northern Utah will be holding donation drop-offs over the next three Saturdays looking for unused aluminum crutches, canes, walkers or wheelchairs that people may have stashed in their homes in a closet or under their beds from past injuries. Deseret Industries will also be gathering donations.

Even considering the last year and a half full of unprecedented moments in the medical field, Dr. Joey Kamerath, the senior director of rehabilitation for all Intermountain Healthcare facilities, said he is still amazed by this moment.

“I’ve never seen this before. We can’t order anymore, and we’re left with what we have in inventory,” said Kamerath, who added he is worried his staff might have to tell a patient soon that they don’t have a walker and don’t know when they will get one. 

“Our stroke patients are absolutely dependent on walkers,” he said. “What a tragedy would it be if we didn’t have a walker for a stroke patient? We’re not there, but we’re close.”

Local pharmacies and medical supply providers are seeing the same issue.

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Among those is Bulloch Drug in Cedar City. Owner Evan Vickers, also a state senator, said his family-run store is seeing shortages.

“We have had a problem getting some sizes of crutches,” he said. “I am not sure about walkers since we don’t sell very many of them.”

Kamerath said while the large influx of patients overall during the pandemic – including at St. George Regional – is a factor, the biggest reason for the shortages is the shipping crisis, which is affecting both the equipment itself and the raw material needed to make the equipment.

Intermountain Healthcare is spreading out its supply between all of its hospitals, so Kamerath said it isn’t any one facility running out of supply before others; it’s all of them.

“Our supply chain has run completely dry,” he said, adding that he has no estimate on when Intermountain’s inventory will be replenished. “We don’t have an idea of when this equipment will be available for us next.”

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Three health providers, including Intermountain,] and the Utah Hospital Association, are holding a #LeanOnUtah donation drive over the next three Saturdays for “gently-used” crutches, canes, walkers or wheelchairs. Wooden equipment won’t be accepted, as medical officials said they can’t be sanitized properly.

Martha Gamble, chief nursing officer at the Jordan Valley Medical Center West Valley Campus, said many people who had to use crutches or walkers in the past may have them stashed away somewhere in their home or garage. She said this is a chance to not only get rid of some of the hoard but also give back to the community. 

“Look in your closets, look under the beds,” Gamble said. “I know we have these.”

Donations will be accepted at a donation site at the main campus of St. George Regional Hospital from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday as well as Nov. 6 and 13. Donations can also be provided at Deseret Industries locations.

For more information, go to the #LeanOnUtah website.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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