WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in a letter addressed to the head of the FEMA Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) urged FEMA to create a national database of existing U.S. ventilator supply that is accessible to states as well as a distribution program to immediately get ventilators to the areas that need them the most.

While plans for increased production of ventilators that will be available in future is a positive development, those efforts will not help the states like New Jersey that need ventilators now.

“I write today to urge you to immediately develop and implement a nationwide ventilator database and distribution program. Doing so will help us send these devices to where they are needed, when they are needed, and inevitably save countless lives, Senator Booker urged.

As the leader of the newly-established Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), you are no doubt aware that our nation is facing a critical shortage of ventilators. Today, many health systems throughout the country are very close to reaching their ventilator capacity. These systems have been warning for weeks that as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, there will be an insufficient supply of ventilators for every patient who will need one. In anticipation of this, many health systems and states are preparing ventilator allocation guidelines.[1] This is a national shame that should be felt deeply by our government, but it should also ignite immediate action,”

I urge you to use the information collected by FEMA to create a database that illuminates where the ventilator supply is throughout the country and where the greatest ventilator needs are. Using this database, FEMA should immediately distribute all of the ventilators in the federal supply to the states that need them now. FEMA should also use this information to work with states and health systems to voluntarily redistribute some ventilators from areas where they are not being used currently to areas that need them now. In coordination with other federal agencies, FEMA should arrange to transport ventilators to where they are needed and ensure the volunteering entities that ventilators will be sent back to them as necessary,” Senator Booker continued.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below:


April 3, 2020

Rear Admiral John P. Polowczyk
Leader, Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20472


Dear Rear Admiral Polowczyk:

I write today to urge you to immediately develop and implement a nationwide ventilator database and distribution program. Doing so will help us send these devices to where they are needed, when they are needed, and inevitably save countless lives.

As the leader of the newly-established Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), you are no doubt aware that our nation is facing a critical shortage of ventilators. Today, many health systems throughout the country are very close to reaching their ventilator capacity. These systems have been warning for weeks that as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, there will be an insufficient supply of ventilators for every patient who will need one. In anticipation of this, many health systems and states are preparing ventilator allocation guidelines.[2] This is a national shame that should be felt deeply by our government, but it should also ignite immediate action.

There were 9,404 ventilators in the federal Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and 1,065 ventilators available from the Department of Defense as of March 31st. New Jersey has made several requests for ventilators from the SNS, including a request last week for 2,500.[3] Since then, the state received 850 ventilators, which is well below its request, and more importantly, its need.[4] While it seems that there are several promising developments to produce tens of thousands of ventilators in the coming months, there are states, such as New Jersey, that need ventilators now.[5],[6] The potential of new ventilators in July will not help New Jerseyans in April.

On March 31st, FEMA requested information from states, including about their ventilator supply, to help the federal government manage federal ventilator resources in the SNS and from the Department of Defense. The purpose of this request is to “ensure the ventilators are shipped to the states in the amount needed to manage the immediate crisis.”[7] This information-gathering should be helpful, but much more must be done.

I urge you to use the information collected by FEMA to create a database that illuminates where the ventilator supply is throughout the country and where the greatest ventilator needs are. Using this database, FEMA should immediately distribute all of the ventilators in the federal supply to the states that need them now. FEMA should also use this information to work with states and health systems to voluntarily redistribute some ventilators from areas where they are not being used currently to areas that need them now. In coordination with other federal agencies, FEMA should arrange to transport ventilators to where they are needed and ensure the volunteering entities that ventilators will be sent back to them as necessary.

In addition, as more ventilators are produced, particularly any that are produced as a result of the Defense Production Act, FEMA and other federal agencies should use the database to direct those ventilators to the areas where they are needed most. Ventilator manufacturers have even made this commonsense request themselves. In a March 24th letter to Administrator Gaynor, Scott Whitaker, President and Chief Executive Officer of AdvaMed wrote, “there are problems in allocating devices to health care providers who need them most. … We believe the most effective way to address these allocation issues is for the Administration to designate a lead agency, such as FEMA, to oversee these allocation decisions with the active input of clinical experts, including the CDC, and other stakeholders, including members of the health care community, patient advocacy groups, and industry.”[8]

There is still a lot of work to do to increase the supply of ventilators in this country, but creating a nationwide ventilator database and distribution program will allow us to more effectively utilize our current supply and ultimately save countless American lives.

Thank you for your serious consideration of my request. I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure Americans have the supplies and equipment they need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

Cory A. Booker
United States Senator

[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-care/who-gets-ventilator-hospitals-facing-coronavirus-surge-are-preparing-life-n1162721
[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-care/who-gets-ventilator-hospitals-facing-coronavirus-surge-are-preparing-life-n1162721
[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-26/n-j-seeks-2-500-ventilators-from-federal-stockpile-governor
[4] https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/coronavirus/2020/04/01/coronavirus-nj-wants-refrigerated-trucks-victims-ventilators/5105113002/
[5] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-ford-motor/ford-ge-to-produce-50000-ventilators-in-100-days-idUSKBN21H39F
[6] https://www.wsj.com/articles/gm-hustles-to-pump-out-ventilators-to-fight-coronavirus-amid-trump-barbs-11585586925
[7] Fema email
[8] https://www.advamed.org/sites/default/files/resource/advamed-recommendation-centralized-ventilator-procurement-allocation-decision-making.pdf

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