Doctors Call for U.S. ‘Czar’ to Coordinate Equipment, Tests

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(Bloomberg) -- U.S. doctors and other health-care workers dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic are urging a coordinated federal effort to make sure medical equipment, protective gear and tests get to where they’re needed.

In a letter to President Donald Trump and testing chief Admiral Brett Giroir, the doctors called for a “medical equipment czar” and a task force to specifically oversee supply and distribution of the gear.

Among the signers were Doctors for America, a group of more than 20,000 doctors and other health-care professionals; Get Us PPE, a grassroots movement founded by front-line physicians; and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which represents consumer advocates.

“As health-care providers, many of us feel abandoned by our federal government and the lack of a national coordinated effort to address this pandemic,” said Val Griffeth, a doctor who co-founded Get Us PPE. “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.”

Trump has been criticized for not having the federal government take a more central role in the response to the pandemic, which has forced some state governors to compete for equipment and opened the door to rampant price-gouging. Democratic senators this week proposed legislation that would federalize the medical supply chain.

The Pentagon has been asked to streamline the distribution, working with private industry. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has arranged for the airlift of millions of masks, gloves and other medical supplies from overseas, but only half goes to government-designated hotspots and it’s unclear at what price.

“The Trump Administration seems more focused on facilitating private sector operations than supplying impacted areas directly, and the process is anything but transparent,” said Matt Wellington, public health campaign director of USPIRG.

The health-care professionals say they still lack a reliable pipeline of protective gear like masks and gowns, as well as adequate equipment to test and treat patients.

“Centralized, federal leadership is necessary for the efficient purchase and distribution of medical equipment, including personal protective equipment, ventilators, and testing resources,” the groups said in the letter. “Without central coordination, states are forced to compete against each other for critical supplies, which leads to skyrocketing prices and increased risk for members of the public and health care workers.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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