Officials warn VA’s protective equipment supplies inadequate for second wave of coronavirusawsDONOTREMOVE
Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the VHA, stated in a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday that the current thirty-day supply of PPE was only about 50% of what was actually needed and 5 months less than what may be needed in case a second COVID-19 wave hits the US during the fall.
But Stone believes that these problems had not prevented his department from responding to the crisis this spring in a laudable manner. He added that the increased demand around the globe for medical gloves, gowns, and masks will not put any of the department’s employees in further danger.
The VA administration has been coming under fire from union officials recently due to resupply and available concerns of PPE for federal employees. Although Stone publicly acknowledged that several austerity measures had been implemented in the spring in order to prevent supplies from running out quickly, he denied that there were any shortages in the past that had endangered employee or patient safety.
Over 1400 VA patients passed away due to complications related to COVID-19 in the last 3 months alone, which is a 16% increase compared to the figures recorded in June. 33 employees also passed away due to the infection.
Over 16000 VA patients and 1600 employees have been infected with the virus since the pandemic started in March. While the active case count fell steadily throughout the month of May, it soon rose by 25% to reach a total of 1754 cases as of last week.
Stone stated that he had been already expecting the increase. He estimated that the VA health system would have to handle at least another 600+ active COVID-19 cases during the fall.
He did express concern over the fact that the virus could cause far more complications for people in the fall and stated that officials needed to commence preparations immediately if they had to ensure sufficient supplies to tackle the oncoming storm.
Stone informed lawmakers that he needed enough PPE stock to last for at least 60 days and stated that officials were reaching out to vendors and federal agencies in order to achieve this goal. However, if a second COVID-19 wave happened to hit the US in the fall, then he would be needing another 6 months of PPE supply, especially considering the increase in infection rates and cases.
Aside from additional funding, he also stated that American companies needed to increase their production levels if the PPE targets were to be achieved. He added that the existing supply chain was gasping for breath to cater to the needs of healthcare systems and hospitals across the country.
The Senate VA Committee had earlier petitioned the President to appoint Robert Wilkie, the VA Secretary, to the Defense Production Act Committee, which has been tasked with overseeing and implementing solutions to supply chain-related issues and bottlenecks.