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Laura Deehan,
CALPIRG

Health pros call for transparent, central coordination from Trump administration

Equipment and testing shortages hurting COVID-19 response
For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON-- CALPIRG along with U.S.PIRG, the federation of State PIRGs, Get Us PPE, Doctors for America, Physicians for Social Responsibility and several other health groups, along with nearly 300 medical professionals, including over a hundred from California, sent a letter to the Trump Administration on Friday calling for central coordination of the medical supply chain and comprehensive testing infrastructure. More than two months into the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, health professionals say they still lack adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe. 

“We need to take care of health professionals so that they can take care of the rest of us. The lack of masks, gowns and other protective equipment not only puts their health at risk, it also hinders the kind of widespread testing efforts we need to get us out of this nightmare,” said Laura Deehan, Public Health Advocate at CALPIRG. 

Rather than coordinating the supply chain and establishing a transparent system to get medical supplies directly to areas in need, the federal government seems more focused on funneling supplies to private companies. In some cases, suppliers are charging outrageous prices. The result is that states, local governments, and hospitals are competing against each other over overpriced supplies, and healthcare workers aren't getting what they need to protect themselves and save lives.

According to the American Health Care Association, three quarters of its members are running out of PPE such as masks and gowns, and 60% have resorted to reusing or making their own equipment. 

“As healthcare providers, many of us feel abandoned by our federal government and the lack of a national coordinated effort to address this pandemic. Not only do we suffer from insufficient access to personal protective equipment, but without regular testing to identify infections early we can’t protect ourselves let alone our colleagues, patients and loved ones at home,” said Val Griffeth, MD, PhD, Co-founder of Get Us PPE. 

Public health experts agree that widespread, comprehensive testing is a key criteria for safely lifting stay at home restrictions. 

“More than two months into the pandemic crisis, my colleagues on the front lines still lack adequate PPE and cannot provide SARS-CoV-2 testing for many of their patients.” said Justin Lowenthal, Co-Chair of the COVID Response Taskforce & Member of the National Board of Directors, Doctors for America. 

Robert Gould, MD and President of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility stated that “If our health care professionals don’t have adequate PPE, they can’t safely administer COVID-19 tests. Therefore, ensuring a steady, reliable supply of PPE is the key to the ongoing testing we’ll need to ensure the safety of reopening large swaths of the country,”

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would create a central, transparent system for procuring and distributing medical supplies during the COVID-19 crisis as well as comprehensive testing. 

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CALPIRG and U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society. Visit https://calpirg.org/  or  https://uspirg.org/ for more info. 

GetUsPPE (GetUsPPE.org) is a movement founded by emergency physicians on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic. Today, it has become a leading national grassroots effort to equip front line health care workers with the protective equipment they need. Through its Demand Data Hub GetUsPPE enables the donation, fabrication, and delivery of currently available PPE to healthcare providers and institutions. Visit www.GetUsPPE.org to find out how you can take action today.

Doctors for America (DFA) is a national movement of over 20,000 physicians, medical trainees, and other health care professionals working together to improve the health of our patients, communities and the nation. A 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to grassroots mobilization of physicians and medical students, DFA works to put patients over politics on the pressing issues of the day. To learn more about DFA’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, view our COVID-19 advocacy principles and our petition on public health safeguards, personal protective equipment, and support for health workers. To get more information or to become involved, visit www.drsforamerica.org or email our Executive Director, Karla Pratt, at karla.pratt@drsforamerica.org

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