“The biggest frustration”: States are in desperate need of supplies as the COVID-19 crisis deepens – National


Fierce suppliers, shady intermediaries, ghost shipments, blazing hourly prices.

What looks like an organized crime thriller is actually the new world of government purchasing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

More and more in recent days, the governors of the United States have described in incredible terms the world dog-eat-dog market from which they had to procure the protective equipment including doctors, nurses and other medical workers. first line need to prepare for an expected wave of patients with severe cases of new coronavirus.

They compete with other states, countries and even their own federal government. And here’s what they find: the fans quickly double in cost. Face masks go for 10 times their original price.

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This has led many governors to call on the Trump administration to centralize purchasing, so far to no avail.

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“This is the biggest frustration,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who heads the National Governors Association. “We have states that compete in open markets with a totally unequal distribution of these things, and now the federal government is competing with us – and other countries compete with us – and then a very limited supply of all these things and no real cooperation. ordination of where it’s going. “

Hogan said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has made progress in distributing supplies from the country’s declining stock, but described it as a “small percentage” of what is needed.

COVID 19 pandemic worsens in Canada

COVID 19 pandemic worsens in Canada

“We have bought everything we can possibly get our hands on the open market everywhere – not just domestically, but all over the world, in places like Korea and China and elsewhere,” he said. .

It is not only governments that compete for precious and increasingly expensive supplies. States are also sometimes in competition with their own hospital systems, which are trying to secure direct shipments so that they can quickly restock their medical personnel.

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It happens in Hogan’s own state. Hospital workers like Dr. Daniel Durand, a doctor in a Maryland hospital system, now have a role they never imagined supervising purchases in a market that has gone haywire.

As an example of what states and hospitals are facing, Durand said that the coveted N95 masks that cost less than a dollar each cannot be found for less than $ 3.70. And it’s a good deal: many buyers are willing to pay a lot more – up to $ 10 a piece.

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He said that some intermediaries threatened to transport their products to another hospital when he started asking basic questions.

“And then what I hear is that people are paying millions for the shipments and nothing shows up,” said Durand, who is the president of radiology for the five LifeBridge Health hospitals. “So there are quite simply people who scam hospitals. It hasn’t happened to us yet, but it can happen to anyone in this type of scenario. “

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Virginia finance secretary Aubrey Layne examines state medical equipment providers and said they had to deal with people with questionable skills and with little time to determine whether they were qualified or trustworthy .

“Everyone knows someone who knows someone in China,” he said.

Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged that the federal stock is nearly depleted, signaling that states will remain largely self-sufficient as the death toll begins to rise. Many governors have been complaining for weeks about not having received the deliveries they requested from the country’s supply, which partly explains the fact that they try to acquire the equipment themselves and find themselves in a brutal competition for scarce supplies.

Intermediaries and suppliers are taking advantage of their desperation: small fans that sold for between $ 11,000 and $ 14,000 now range from $ 20,000 to $ 30,000, said Christian Mitchell, deputy governor of the Illinois Democratic Government Administration Gov.JB Pritzker. More luxury models that once exceeded $ 45,000 now cost $ 20,000 more.

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Mitchell says states have no choice but to pay it.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Cuomo says New York is doing “more than any other state or country” to acquire fans

“We were all left to our own devices,” he said. “You have a choice between: ‘Do I get enough things I need to protect my frontline health workers, do I have enough fans to make sure more people stay alive . Or do people die? “”

Large states like California have an advantage because their very size gives them enormous purchasing power that others lack. California governor Gavin Newsom says he doesn’t want this leverage to hurt small states and has contacted Washington, Illinois, New Jersey and others to partner up to centralize their purchases.

“Much of what you hear is true regarding the Wild Wild West,” said Newsom.

Small states, like New Hampshire, are at a disadvantage.

“We compete as a state with other states in the market, and I’m sorry, New Hampshire does not have the scale to compete with New York State and State of the Illinois, “said Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes in the state.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says US shutdown of 3M medical supplies in Canada “could hurt Americans as much as anyone”

“If it has to be just that kind of free Darwinian for everyone, like” Lord of the Flies “… I don’t know what to say. It is absolutely unacceptable. It is unimaginable that we are there right now. “

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Some states are working with private manufacturers to convert the buildings so that they can produce their own medical equipment. Maryland is one of them, said Ellington Churchill, who oversees the state’s General Service Department.

“You are looking to provide it,” he said.

LifeBridge Health is one of those who take charge.

He transformed a building in the suburbs of Baltimore into a factory to produce masks. LifeBridge’s head of oncology, who sews, trained 40 staff to make the masks, said radiologist Durand.

“It’s like half a sewing factory, half a surgery room,” he said.

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© 2020 The Canadian Press


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