NH's Congressional delegation is calling for the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to urgently provide guidance to health care providers in New Hampshire and nationwide 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.
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 HHS and 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 NH Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to seek supplies from the state’s stockpile.
With the state’s stockpile running low, NH recently requested that HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response provide access to the Strategic National Stockpile. Emergency action to preserve resources, such as delaying elective surgeries at NH’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 NH 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.
The 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.
The delegation concluded by asking the Health Secretary what the Department is doing to ensure hospitals have the capacity for those most in need of treatment and to avoid community spread among seniors.