CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Lauren Zalay and her colleagues at University Associates in Dentistry in Chicago’s Loop use a lot of personal protective equipment each week.
“We probably go through 900 gloves a week, 20 to 30 gowns a day and hundreds of masks a week,” she said.
Early on in the pandemic while they were shut down, Zalay says they donated all their supplies to hospitals. When they reopened after two months, they found themselves without their own equipment and nowhere to get it.
“We were shut down for two months. We came back in mid-May and we could not get PPE. We could not get masks, we could not get gowns,” Zalay said.
“What we could get our hands on was very very expensive. Not only are we wearing regular PPE, but way more now during a pandemic.”
Dentist Lauren Zalay with some of her PPE supplies. Photo credit WBBM Newsradio Lisa Fielding
Zalay said what she found was a lot price-gouging for small businesses who need PPE.
“Items that we used to pay $1 for was now $6, so costs have gone up by 600%,” she said. “Our costs have gone up, and we’re seeing less patients.”
Since then, she’s found an Elk Grove Village-based company that sells wholesale to small businesses.
“Our usual dental suppliers are out of stock or the units are unusually high. The gowns we couldn’t get in June — now it’s the gloves we can’t get in November. The field hospitals should be getting what they need, but that causes problems for smaller operations like us, plastic surgeons, dermatologists, those kinds of businesses.”
PPE stockpile Photo credit WBBM Newsradio Lisa Fielding
A company called MRI would make all the difference.
“So I stumbled upon a company that started out as a philanthropy in March. They donated many, many masks in the city when we didn’t have PPE and then they evolved to be able to get the PPE to Chicago and sell it at an extremely low price to help other people,” she said.
“It allows people to buy PPE at the lowest price they can get it without being price-gouged for their offices, and it’s helped us so much. I’m so grateful for them.”
Zalay says she now wants to spread the word.
“I helped an ophthalmologist, a helped a plastic surgeon, I’ve helped some companies who have home care, nurses who go into homes and need PPE.”
Dr. Zalay looks at X-rays while wearing her PPE. Photo credit WBBM Newsradio Lisa Fielding
Her supplies are ample now, but Zalay worries about what might happen in the future. Many businesses are stocking up for 6 months or more.
“We have a stock room full of PPE but we never know what’s going to happen into next year,” she said.
She recently teamed up with the philanthropist behind MRI, the PPE supplier.
“Part of the reason we shut down in March and April was because there wasn’t enough PPE to go around. If small business offices used the PPE, there wouldn’t be enough for the hospitals. I don’t want that to happen again. I want these small offices, these health clinics to have the PPE and the hospitals to have it. That’s kind of the goal is that there is enough for everyone.”