Rep. Deutch Asks for Transparency and Accountability in PPE Supply Chain
Today, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) wrote a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor to raise concerns that vast amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) are disappearing from FEMA’s view and being lost to a broken private sector supply chain.
Last week, the Trump Administration announced a public-private partnership to bring PPE from around the world to the United States. On Friday, FEMA provided a briefing to the Florida congressional delegation and confirmed that 80 percent of those supplies will be turned over to private medical supply companies. On the call, FEMA admitted that it has no visibility on the equipment once they are turned over to private suppliers to confirm they reach the frontline responders.
Personal protective equipment shortages are one of the top concerns of hospital administrators responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General released a report that found hospitals are resorting to unvetted suppliers, paying higher prices, reusing disposable supplies, and seeking out non-medical-grade protective equipment. Additionally, nurses have protested equipment shortages that jeopardize their health and the safety of their patients and families.
“I ask that you work urgently with all partner agencies and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to ensure vital personal protective equipment ends up in the hands of those who are risking their lives to save Americans from COVID-19,” Congressman Deutch wrote.
The letter can be accessed here or below.
Dear Administrator Gaynor:
I write to express serious concerns related to the public-private partnerships FEMA is using to promote the supply of personal protective equipment needed to protect frontline health workers, first responders, and the people they serve during the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Florida.
On the April 3, 2020 Florida congressional delegation briefing call, the Agency confirmed comments made by Rear Admiral John Polowczyk at the White House briefing the day before: 80 percent of the supplies brought to America from abroad as part of an operation known as Project Airbridge will be turned over to private vendors. Once this happens, FEMA is cut off from the last and most crucial step of the supply chain: putting protective equipment in the hands of frontline responders.
I am concerned that the current system is dumping vast quantities of medical supplies into a broken supply chain that has been unable to deliver equipment where it is needed most. Over the past three weeks, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz placed several orders totaling millions of N95 respirator masks through multiple well-established medical suppliers, including 3M and its authorized distributors. In the best case, orders were partially filled. In the worst case, orders go unfilled and distributors are unable to provide information about when or if masks will ever arrive. Director Moskowitz described his search for masks as “chasing a ghost.”
Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General released a survey of hospital administrators who are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. In response to the Inspector General, “hospitals reported that the supply chain for medical equipment had been disrupted because of increased demand for PPE from health care providers and others around the country.” The survey found that hospitals are resorting to unvetted suppliers, paying higher prices, reusing disposable supplies, and seeking out non-medical-grade protective equipment.
Shortages of personal protective equipment is endangering frontline health workers and in turn threatening the supply of those workers in our hospitals. Nurses across six states, including Florida, protested the unsafe conditions for workers and patients due to PPE shortages. One nurse in Texas said, “When we are infected, no one is safe. When we are infected, we become a real danger of infecting everyone else around us, patients, hospital staff, and a risk to our own families.”
While I appreciate the formation of the Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, I am concerned that FEMA is not doing enough to ensure that these supplies arrive at the bedside, patrol vehicles, and ambulances where they are needed.
To protect our health workers and first responders from coronavirus infection, please respond to the following questions and requests for information:
Thank you for your attention to this request.
MEMBER OF CONGRESS