Hospitals and health agencies throughout the United States are buying equipment at exorbitant prices to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic. The administration of President Donald Trump has been heavily criticized.
According to the Washington Post, at RWJBarnabas Health, the largest health care network in New Jersey state, hospital leaders are having headaches because the supply of medical equipment is so scarce that they have to pay 50 times as much as average. usually to purchase.
The situation was so bad that they were willing to buy medical equipment and supplies from unknown suppliers, even paying up to 100% upfront before receiving the much-needed items.
The risk of fraud is huge. An order of 500,000 RWJBarnabas Health masks received from a Chinese manufacturer turned out to have no medical effect. They are designed to serve nail salons.
“We are burning money, but there is no other option. The rules that we used to follow before no longer exist, ”the Washington Post quoted Mr. John Bonamo – Health and Quality Director of RWJBarnabas Health – lamented.
The supply of medical equipment is not reputable
The current impasse has compelled the governors of the states and local health officials to call on the US federal government to take control of the scarce and scarce distribution of medical resources nationwide. .
They begged the White House to use the National Defense Production Law to force American companies to produce essential medical goods. But US President Donald Trump refused. “I don’t need to use it,” Mr. Trump announced on March 26.
But the hospital leaders and the intermediary sales team provided information completely different from what Mr. Trump asserted. They describe a complicated system throughout the United States, hospitals and health agencies with few options, forced to rely on unreliable suppliers and intermediaries.
Companies operating outside the traditional US medical supply chain often scream at very high prices, while not guaranteeing quality. While the Covid-19 epidemic was widespread in the United States, hospitals under great pressure were vulnerable to being deceived, “loss of money”.
The governors of New York, Texas, Illinois and several other states said they had to compete with the federal government and others to win surgical masks, N95 masks, robes and ventilators.
Numerous anonymous suppliers invite them to buy medical equipment directly from Chinese factories. Illinois Vice Governor Christian Mitchell said a group of more than 10 of his members was currently checking many suppliers of masks and medical equipment.
“A friend of a friend of a friend who has a cousin of business cousin in China approached us. Our team must check to see if this entity is legally trading, and whether the product is of sufficient quality, “Mitchell said.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott’s group also spends a lot of time checking international suppliers. “I received emails and messages from people who said they knew one supplier or another,” said Mr Abbott.
Some intermediaries admit to taking advantage of the chaos of the market to profit. Andre Leite and Adrian Small, two real estate brokers in Washington, have absolutely no medical experience.
When an outbreak broke out, they called hospitals, health organizations and city officials, asserted that they knew the right suppliers in China and bluntly said they wanted a 20% commission.
“It’s the cheapest I can offer,” the Washington Post quoted Leite as saying. “I told them to put their hands in their pockets, take out a few coins and accept them.”
Mr. Bonamo of RWJBarnabas Health said the hospital managers were having a headache because they were required to pay in advance for many items. Prices vary by day, especially for medical devices needed. Surgical masks increased from 0.03-0.05 cents to a few USD / unit. N95 mask increased from 1 USD to 7.5 USD / unit.
“Among incoming calls and texts, very few people really understand health products. Many people who have never done business (medical equipment) before but are only talented traders who sense profit. But they can connect with China and some other places, ”Bonamo explained.
“The demand is too high while the supply control is still problematic,” said Andrew Stroup, founder of the non-profit health organization Project N95. Many hospital directors fear the masks they buy are not up to the standards and could endanger health workers.
The price is too expensive, the hospital budget is exhausted. 3M, the maker of the N95 mask, recently warned of the widespread appearance of fake masks, and pledged to prevent fake sellers from making a profit.
Earlier this week, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also discovered many fake N95 masks, and said a hospital lost up to $ 3 million because of being tricked into buying fake goods.
President Trump is criticized
A group of congressmen from both Democrats and Republicans are calling on Mr. Trump to use the Defense Production Law. They submitted a bill requiring the White House to buy 300 million N95 masks within 24 hours of the law being signed.
The Washington Government owns a stockpile of strategic medical equipment, but states and hospitals say the supply from the stockpile is too small. Recently, Virginia state officials complained they were receiving only 10% of the needed equipment from the Department of Health supplies.
“This is a public health crisis and many people will die if we cannot get the safety equipment for health workers,” said Senator Abigail Spanberger, a former intelligence agency official. Central America (CIA), pressing.
“The states are begging for help from the federal government, but President Trump does not use the right he has to help. It is scary, ”he stressed.
Ms. Rhonda Medows of Providence St. Hospital Joseph Health (Seattle) said she has been seeking help from federal agencies for days. However, what the hospital received was few meager shipments to pitiful.
Lee Saunders, head of a union of medical workers, said even some New York health care workers had to use trash bags instead when the hospital lacked a medical gown. Therefore, hospitals still have to rely on unreliable supplies.
“Mr. Trump, do the right thing. Use the National Defense Production Law to provide the necessary equipment for health workers,” Saunders called.
Meanwhile, US hospitals are so desperate to accept being mercilessly “exploited” by unknown providers. There are hospitals that have to buy an N95 respirator mask for up to 20 USD / unit.
Finally, under pressure of public opinion, Mr. Trump had to use the Defense Production Law on March 27 to force businesses to manufacture medical devices. Trump ordered GM to produce ventilators.