Senator Hassan Raises New Hampshire’s Attempts to Purchase Backordered Supplies
WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today questioned Robert Kadlec, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, during a committee hearing about ensuring that public health officials, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak have the resources and support that they need to contain and respond to this evolving public health challenge.
In a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Senator Hassan recounted that New Hampshire’s public health officials have said that they have in-state stockpiles of protective equipment such as masks, but they recognize that their stockpiles may be quickly used up. The senator continued, “Public health officials in my state have attempted to order more supplies – but they were told such supplies are on back order until May. Based on your testimony earlier this week, I am afraid the National Strategic Stockpile won’t be sufficient to meet the demand.”
The senator asked Dr. Kadlec what the timeline is for getting this critical protective equipment in the field and how first responders should be protecting themselves in the interim.
Dr. Kadlec responded, “We’ve taken a multi-prong strategy to basically address what I think is your point, which is unless you have it on hand immediately, you’re gonna face some challenges. And so one is we have a stockpile, a limited stockpile right now of masks […] and we’re in the midst of procuring more immediately, meaning tens of millions, and then have introduced, or released as of yesterday, a request for proposals for 500 million N 95 respirators to basically be provided over the next 6-12 months.”
Senator Hassan continued, “In addition to states needing these supplies, it’s gonna be important to provide training to any responders or providers who will be tasked with assisting or treating coronavirus patients. What efforts are underway at the federal level to ensure that responders and providers can access training on the use of personal protective equipment?”
Dr. Kadlec said that the Department of Health and Human Services has started a Regional Disaster Health Response Network, which includes a partnership with Mass General Hospital to help train and prepare first responders in the northern New England region to respond to this public health challenge.
Senator Hassan followed up by raising her concerns that the Administration’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021 would cut funding for programs like this, "I think it's gonna be important - something that I asked Acting Secretary Wolf about yesterday too - because in the proposed DHS budget there's actually cuts to programs that train first responders in this kind of work.”