April 10, 2020

Warner & Kaine Press Trump Administration For Plan To Secure Medical Supplies Needed For Virginia’s COVID-19 Response

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, as Virginia faces medical supply shortages, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine wrote to Vice President Mike Pence and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor asking for the Trump Administration’s plan to help Virginia hospitals and health care providers obtain medical supplies critical to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the letter, the Senators highlight concerning reports of the federal government redirecting significant shares of medical supplies meant for states and hospitals without notice and call on the Administration to outline a clear process for distribution of essential supplies.

“We implore you to explicitly and transparently lay out and publicly report on the federal government’s activities and plans, including the extent of the federal government’s acquisitions, how supplies obtained by the federal government are being allocated, who is making the decisions on where supplies go and when, and the federal government’s plans for its continued involvement in the medical supply chain over the course of the pandemic,” the Senators wrote.

“We, like our hospitals and health systems, understand very well the need to urgently send crucial medical equipment and supplies to the areas hardest-hit by COVID-19, particularly in light of the Administration’s failure to ensure sufficient testing capacity amid weeks of inaction and dissembling early on in this crisis,” the Senators continued. “But without a clear, transparent, and predictable process, how can hospitals be sure they will get the supplies they need from their distributors or the federal government when they need them?”

The letter can be found here and below.

 

April 10, 2020

 

The Honorable Michael R. Pence

Vice President of the United States of America

The White House

Office of the Vice President

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

The Honorable Peter T. Gaynor

Administrator

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

500 C Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20472

 

Dear Vice President Pence and Administrator Gaynor:

We write to urge you to immediately clarify for states, manufacturers, distributors, purchasing cooperatives, health systems, hospitals, and other health care providers how and when FEMA and the federal government is intervening in the medical supply chain to obtain and distribute critical medical equipment and supplies needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We implore you to explicitly and transparently lay out and publicly report on the federal government’s activities and plans, including the extent of the federal government’s acquisitions, how supplies obtained by the federal government are being allocated, who is making the decisions on where supplies go and when, and the federal government’s plans for its continued involvement in the medical supply chain over the course of the pandemic.

We have heard disturbing accounts from states, health systems and hospitals and have seen press reporting[1] indicating that FEMA has stepped in after orders have been placed to redirect significant shares of supplies meant for our constituents and Americans in need to the federal government. While we have urged the federal government to play an increased role in managing the supply chain, when life-saving supplies and COVID-19 tests are commandeered by the federal government without notice or communication, states and health care providers’ ability to adequately protect their staff, ensure patient care for COVID-19 patients, and plan for the future is greatly undermined.

Hospitals and health systems around the country are already facing major financial challenges brought on by increased expenses and revenue losses due to the pandemic, and the lack of a clear process for acquisition and distribution of essential supplies and PPE only exacerbates hospitals’ financial troubles during a time of great uncertainty. Hospitals and health systems are paying many times what they paid only a few months ago for vital supplies and are devoting significant human capital to the effort to ensure adequate supplies. Many health systems and hospitals are bidding against one another and the federal government for an already limited supply of vital equipment and supplies in high demand like ventilators, diagnostic tests, medications, and essential personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and surgical gowns. And in some cases as we have learned, hospitals are not receiving complete orders of supplies due to unannounced intervention by the federal government.

The mass confusion and inefficiencies generated by the lack of communication and transparency from the Administration and FEMA on this matter is not only hampering the ability of hospitals to plan for and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks in their communities, but it also jeopardizes treatment of other patients with serious conditions. Due in part to equipment and PPE shortages, hospitals have been directed to cancel or postpone vital surgeries, such as those to remove cancerous tumors, to ensure adequate PPE is on hand when they need it to care for patients who may have COVID-19.

We, like our hospitals and health systems, understand very well the need to urgently send crucial medical equipment and supplies to the areas hardest-hit by COVID-19, particularly in light of the Administration’s failure to ensure sufficient testing capacity amid weeks of inaction and dissembling early on in this crisis. But without a clear, transparent, and predictable process, how can hospitals be sure they will get the supplies they need from their distributors or the federal government when they need them? How can the American people have the confidence that the supplies are being allocated fairly and efficiently, without concern for political interests, if relevant information is not shared in detail with policymakers and the public?

We ask you to immediately clarify the role the federal government is taking in the medical supply chain for the good of our states, health systems, hospitals, health care workers, and patients on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

###



[1] Levy, N. N. (2020, April 7). Hospitals say feds are seizing masks and other coronavirus supplies without a word. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-04-07/hospitals-washington-seize-coronavirus-supplies