TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – 8 On Your Side is investigating whether or not nursing homes have the personal protective gear they need to protect your loved ones.

The Florida Department of Health conducted roughly 100 tests at the site of an outbreak in Palm Harbor on Tuesday. The day before, ambulances were lined up at St. Mark Village nursing home to evacuate seven patients suffering from COVID-19.

The chief executive of the facility says the move was necessary after staff became overwhelmed taking care of sick patients.

“We first discovered our case on April 10,” St. Mark Village Chief Executive Doug Fresh said. “We had one every day or two, felt we were managing it. We went from nine to 13 over the weekend.”

The patients are in stable condition.

Fresh says to prepare for the outbreak, he called a meeting with staff in late February.

“We need to be prepared, all we know is our hurricane preparedness,” said Fresh. “Let’s put that in place and move with the punches.”

8 On Your Side asked if the state was providing help to the facility.

“All of us have had problems getting the PPE equipment and of course we pretty much went out on our own,” said Fresh. “There’s just no system to do it.”

Fresh says that before the outbreak happened, the facility turned to the state for help but nothing much came of it.

It’s a complaint 8 On Your Side has heard from other health care workers in these long-term care facilities as well.

“Staffing has been somewhat of a challenge, we’ve got a lot of people who have put in a lot of extra hours,” said Fresh. “So we’ve asked for both of those and pretty much, in those areas, the state was not that helpful.”

LIST: Which Tampa Bay nursing homes have confirmed coronavirus cases?

Fresh said his facility found their own equipment and staffing. The situation is under control.

8 On Your Side reached out to state officials to see what is being done to support these long-term care facilities.

The State Joint Information Center on COVID-19 says there’s another push to send additional supplies to the facilities.

The Division of Emergency Management is continuing to push PPE to support hospitals, first responders and health care workers across the state, the state said Tuesday in this statement:

These critical supplies are being distributed 24 hours, seven days a week to respond to COVID-19. Over the next 72 hours, from Monday to Wednesday, the Division of Emergency Management is making another major push of PPE to support health care workers in long-term care facilities.

This includes:
4 million masks
200,000 face shields
500,000 gloves

During any emergency response, the state coordinates with local county emergency management to identify needs in every county, the state said Tuesday. Each county submits requests to the state based on the needs of their county. Through this process, the state is able to prioritize the areas with the highest need and is able to distribute supplies throughout the state 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If there’s a lack of protective gear at your nursing home or long-term care facility, email MSaeidi@WFLA.com.