AUSTIN (KXAN) – Doctors and clinics in desperate need of personal protective equipment could get N95 masks and gowns by the end of the week. 

Family doctors have been begging for months for PPE so they can keep staff and patients safe during the pandemic. Some have even resorted to rain ponchos as protection in fighting COVID-19.

“I did use them,” Dr. Emily Briggs said with Briggs Family Medicine in New Braunfels. “It’s a very strange thing to wear a rain jacket going into a patient’s room.”

Frustrated family doctors tell KXAN investigators that they’ve felt left behind when it came to the distribution of PPE. Dr. Briggs recently teamed up with the Texas Medical Association to find a better system so they’re not forgotten.

She’s part of a taskforce now which has been working closely with state agencies. The team has created an online portal where health professionals can apply for shipments of PPE. 

“It should be instrumental in getting resources out to community physicians,” Dr. Briggs said. “Items will remain more scarce than we would like, however this at least is a method for community physicians to obtain PPE when we cannot order it through our normal supply chains.”

TMA President Dr. David Fleeger said the new PPE distribution portal comes after sharing data and stories of struggling physicians with the Texas Division of Emergency Management which distributes the supplies. TMA represents more than 53,000 doctors and medical students across the state.

“The goal is to ensure those who need it the most will get top priority without anyone being accused of playing favorites,” Dr. Fleeger said. “All licensed Texas physicians can participate.”

Dr. Fleeger said TMA will prioritize which medical practices get PPE based on their current supply of N95 respirators and other supplies, their typical daily usage, medical specialty, and patient population.

As the state prepares for stay at home orders to expire Dr. Briggs said having this protection now will be instrumental.

“We are likely to have our personal protective equipment even more scarce, because those on the front lines are going to need to do more testing,” Dr. Briggs said “We’re likely to see a bump in the number of cases in not just in Texas, but in the United States as people attempt to find some normalcy and go back to having businesses open, especially non-essential businesses.”