WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced a proposal to help prevent the continued spread of COVID-19 by ensuring the federal government is helping our nation’s public health system prepare to handle an influx of patients. The need for sufficient personal protective equipment and medical supplies, protections for health care providers, and enough hospital beds for sick patients is critical during this pandemic. Peters’ three-step plan will help ensure there is an adequate supply of respirators, ventilators, and other critical equipment, bolster the health care workforce and ensure their health and safety, and increase the capacity of health care facilities for all patients needing care.
“As we continue to combat the spread of COVID-19, we must ensure the federal government is helping our nation’s public health system handle a drastic increase in patients,” said Senator Peters. “I’ve heard firsthand from providers in Michigan that there are simply not enough gloves, masks and medical supplies to meet the demand our hospitals could see during this pandemic. We must ensure that critical shortages won’t impact care for patients or the health and safety of caregivers. I will be pushing for these critical provisions to be included in additional legislation Congress is working on to address this severe public health and economic crisis.”
Peters has also been working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and companies in Michigan to identify areas where they can help manufacture much needed medical supplies and equipment. This past week, Peters pushed the Administration to move forward with using their authorities under the Defense Production Act to direct companies to manufacture lifesaving personal protective equipment and medical supplies that are in widespread shortage due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Several Michigan-based companies have announced plans to partner with other companies or shift their production to meet the additional demand for medical supplies, including masks, gloves and ventilators. On Friday, Peters spoke with representatives from the Michigan Health and Hospitals Association to discuss the resources medical centers in communities across the state need to combat the Coronavirus. Last month, Peters convened a call with public health officials and hospitals from across Michigan to discuss what they need from the federal government to effectively respond to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Below is a summary of Senator Peters’ Public Health System Preparedness proposal. A PDF of the proposal is available here. Peters also previously announced a plan to strengthen Coronavirus testing capacity nationwide.
1. Ensure an Adequate Supply of Respirators, Ventilators, and Other Critical Equipment
Access to proper medical supplies is critical for the safety of our health care workforce and can make the difference between life and death for an at-risk COVID-19 patient.
- Track and Coordinate the Allocation of Critical Medical Supplies (HHS): Develop a centralized system to track manufacturing, availability, and distribution of supplies to better understand manufacturing capacity, detect and predict shortages, and ensure supplies make it to high-need areas.
- Partner with Industry to Increase Production of Supplies (HHS): Encourage existing manufacturers to increase production to meet current and future demand, such as through direct procurement and a guarantee to purchase excess supplies. Engage with manufacturers, such as the great producers in Michigan, who can repurpose facilities to make needed supplies.
- Utilize the Strategic National Stockpile and Defense Production Act (FEMA & HHS): Use newly activated Defense Production Act authorities to help guide manufacturers to produce and strategically allocate medical supplies, preventing and addressing local shortages. As manufacturing ramps up, continue to distribute supplies from the stockpile as needed and report to Congress on inventory, requests, and distribution.
2. Bolster the Health Care Workforce and Ensure Their Health and Safety
To protect the health and safety of our communities, we must ensure that there are enough providers to care for all patients, and that first responders and health care workers have the personal protective equipment they need.
- Activate Additional Federal Medical Personnel (White House): Direct federal medical personnel – including the National Guard, Reserve, Public Health Service, and others – to provide health care in areas of greatest need. Develop a plan for utilizing combat medics and other military personnel.
- Prioritize Testing and Personal Protective Equipment Distribution (HHS): Work with states, localities, and industry to ensure an adequate supply of tests and protective equipment for frontline health care providers.
- Ensure Health Care Workers Can Support U.S. Response Across Borders (DHS): Allow health care workers who reside across the border to continue entering the U.S. to work at U.S. health care facilities.
3. Increase the Capacity of Health Care Facilities for All Patients Needing Care
Our health care system must have enough beds and resources to treat every patient, including those with COVID-19 or other urgent health needs, while maintaining a high standard of care.
- Financially Support Hospitals & Health Care Workers (White House): Use federal dollars to ensure medical facilities are able to afford supplies & care for patients. Provide hazard pay to frontline health care workers.
- Direct DOD and FEMA to Establish Treatment Facilities (White House): Enlist DOD and FEMA to provide states with needed resources, including through the utilization of Stafford Act funds and the establishment of temporary medical facilities and rapid diagnostic and treatment centers.
- Acquire and Convert Spaces into Medical Facilities (HHS & GSA): Explore methods for acquiring properties that can be converted into medical facilities through direct acquisition or provision of federal funds.