NH Delegation Letter Follows Joint Call with NH Governor Chris Sununu Last Week to President Trump, Urging Swift Delivery of Critical Medical Supplies & Personal Protective Equipment
(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) sent a letter last night to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor, expressing their deep concern over the agencies’ poor response to New Hampshire’s call for medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.
The delegation noted the agencies’ numerous missteps in their response to New Hampshire’s requests. These include: delays in delivering supplies, providing expired equipment, dispersing materials that can’t be used in most medical settings due to allergens, and sending shipments of resources in bits and pieces instead of full allotments, which prevents health care providers on the frontlines from being able to prepare and plan for the surge of patients they’ll see in the coming days and weeks.
In their letter, the delegation cited the significant delays from FEMA following the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ (NH DHHS) March 17th request. The delegation wrote, “On March 17th, NH DHHS requested additional materials that health care providers in New Hampshire desperately need in order to meet the demand of the impending surge of coronavirus cases. Our understanding is that an error at the national supervisory level at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) resulted in the March 17th request sitting “unprocessed” for four days. This type of delay is unacceptable and puts the health of Granite Staters at risk.”
The delegation went on to describe numerous other issues, which include providing supplies that are expired or unusable, and failing to meet the threshold of resources that providers urgently need. The delegation continued, “…many of the supplies that the state received were expired and the 16,677 gloves that NH DHHS received were all latex gloves, which are unusable in the medical setting due to latex allergies. Even after accounting for the supplies included in this second shipment on Tuesday, FEMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have fallen short in the total amount of supplies provided. Between these first two shipments combined, your agencies have only provided 28 percent of the total number of N95 respirator masks originally requested on March 11th, only one-third of nasal swabs needed, approximately 26 percent of the original request for surgical masks, and zero ventilators. NH DHHS recently increased its pending request from 15 ventilators to 45 ventilators.”
The delegation also cited the problematic procedure with providing shipments in piecemeal fashion, rather than full allotments, which, when combined with delays and errors in shipments, will undermine health care providers’ planning process for the surge of patients they’ll see in the days and weeks ahead. The delegation closed their letter requesting that the agencies provide an updated timeline for when the full shipment of supplies urgently needed by New Hampshire health care providers will arrive.
The letter can be read in full here.
Shaheen previously led the New Hampshire congressional delegation in a call to Secretary Azar earlier this month, 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, ventilators and other essential supplies to hospitals as they prepare for an increase of coronavirus patients in the weeks to come.
Last night, Shaheen and Hassan both voted in favor on new coronavirus response legislation to provide urgent relief to workers, small businesses, health care providers, hospitals and families impacted by this public health crisis. This legislation was the result of around the clock bipartisan negotiations, of which Shaheen helped negotiate provisions to assist small businesses alongside Senators Rubio (R-FL), Cardin (D-MD) and Collins (R-ME). It passed the Senate unanimously and will be considered by the House on Friday. The New Hampshire congressional delegation has fought for and voted in favor of two previous economic response bills to provide financial relief to states in their coronavirus response efforts, and to support workers, businesses and families impacted by the spread of the disease. The President signed both bills into law. The first economic package led to New Hampshire receiving an initial $4.9 million in funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).