Health care providers – including RNs across all health care settings, are facing severe shortages of PPE, including masks and N95 respirators, that will leave many unprotected and potentially infected by the COVID-19 virus. Initial information came to the attention of the American Nurses Association (ANA) of nurses using pillowcases and other materials to make masks or are reusing masks, creating unsafe conditions that could negatively impact the nurse and patient. The nature of the shortage continues to evolve as the pandemic progresses and production and distribution ramp up.
ANA has called on Congress to:
• Support the immediate reporting on the level of and distribution of PPE to frontline health care personnel from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).
• Mandate that sustainable PPE levels should always be maintained at the SNS, including before, during, and following an outbreak, pandemic, or other emergency.
• Require a General Accountability Office (GAO) study to review the actions of all applicable federal agencies to identify root causes of these failures in preparation for the next wave of COVID-19 or any other pandemic to hit the United States.
• Require a GAO study on the current supply chain of PPE in the United States and worldwide to prevent future avoidable shortages.
• Require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide science-based information on the transmission of the virus so that nurses can make the best decisions on the appropriate level of protection.
• Require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop reporting requirements to better track shortages of PPE.
As a result of your tireless advocacy to Capitol Hill all of these requests were fulfilled when the CARES Act (H.R. 748) was signed into law in late March. Additionally, ANA is urging Congress to support the Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act (S. 3568/H.R. 6390). This legislation would immediately mobilize the federal government to help ramp up manufacturing of medical supplies and create a coordinated procurement and distribution process to states and health care facilities. While the Defense Production Act (DPA) has been invoked, it has not been used to its full authority, risking the health and lives of frontline health care providers, patients, and the general public.
The Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act of 2020 would:
• Direct the administration to activate the DPA to identify private sector capacity to produce no less than 500 million N95 respirators, 200,000 medical ventilators, 20 million face shields, 500 million pairs of gloves, and 20 million surgical gowns, in addition to other medical equipment deemed necessary;
• Direct that the President, or his designee, shall coordinate and direct allocation of this equipment, based on requests and need of each governor, as determined based on the number of cases of COVID-19 and the proportion of high-risk population in the state;
• Determine a fair and reasonable price for the PPE purchased under this bill; and
• Return unused equipment purchased with the DPA fund to the SNS.
Thank you to all the nurse advocates who have already reached out to their members of Congress urging them to support the Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act of 2020. To learn more about ANA’s broader efforts to combat COVID-19, please click here.