Delegation Highlights the Urgent Need for Respirators and Surgical Masks
Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calling for the Department to urgently provide guidance to health care providers in New Hampshire and across the country on the steps being taken to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other essential supplies to hospitals as they prepare for an increase of coronavirus patients in the weeks to come. The delegation also requested changes to Medicare rules regarding the discharge of patients to increase the availability of urgently-needed hospital beds.
In a letter to Secretary Alex Azar, the delegation wrote:
“We have heard from health care providers across the state, who have informed us that their commercial vendors will not be able to accept immediate orders for PPE, including respirators, gowns, surgical masks and other supplies. In following current protocols, health care providers have turned to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to seek supplies from the state’s stockpile. With the state’s stockpile running low, New Hampshire recently requested that the federal Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) provide access to the Strategic National Stockpile. Emergency action to preserve resources, such as delaying elective surgeries at New Hampshire’s hospitals, is not a long-term solution. Our health care providers will need support as soon as possible in acquiring more PPE so that health care workers can perform their duties without risking their health or exacerbating the spread of coronavirus.”
The delegation went on to highlight the pressing need for more ventilators in New Hampshire and in hospitals across the country:
“A recent report from Johns Hopkins University suggests that there are a total of 160,000 ventilators in the United States’ supply for patients experiencing severe acute respiratory failure. This report warns that a severe pandemic would likely overwhelm this supply. This report warns that a severe pandemic would likely overwhelm this supply. We have already seen the lack of ventilator supply produce deadly results during this coronavirus outbreak in other countries. In an interview with CNN on March 13th, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma explained that there are between 12,000 and 13,000 ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile, which raises concerns about the process for distribution of ventilators from the stockpile. To date, the Department has provided mixed messages on how it is going to process requests for more ventilators from hospitals across the country.”
The delegation concluded by asking the Health Secretary what the Department is doing to ensure hospitals have capacity for those most in in need of treatment and to avoid community spread among seniors.
The full text of the letter is available here.
Senator Shaheen and the New Hampshire congressional delegation have been sounding the alarm on the need for additional federal funding to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Following calls from the delegation and others in Congress, on Friday President Trump declared a national emergency in response to the spread of coronavirus. Shaheen and Hassan have called for the Senate to swiftly pass the bipartisan economic coronavirus response legislation that passed the House last Friday. The delegation supported bipartisan government funding legislation to help states’ response efforts, which was recently signed into law. Last week, the CDC disbursed the $4.9 million funds for New Hampshire included in that funding package.