In a press briefing today, the country’s Democratic leadership introduced new legislation to federalize the nation’s medical supply chain. The bill would increase governmental oversight of medical manufacturers and suppliers.
It would also compel President Trump to utilize measures established under the Defense Production Act. The act allows the president to reallocate funding and federal support for essential industries.
Senator Tammy Baldwin, of Wisconsin, says legislation announced today aims to establish a reliable stream of personal protective equipment and testing supplies for states.
“This White House has not provided our states with all the resources and medical supplies that we need to combat this pandemic and conduct widespread testing to identify those who are infected,” she says. “In order to put people back to work and reopen businesses, we need both a national testing plan and supplies to implement it. This is true in Wisconsin and true in every other state.”
Jeff Pothof is Chief Quality Officer at UW Health. He says while the supply chain has improved significantly over the past several weeks, healthcare providers still struggle to get enough testing kits.
“So the supply chain is much better, even compared to a week ago, two weeks ago. And we continue to get more supplies in, but sometimes the supplies we get in aren’t exactly what we expect. So we’re still looking at supplies three times a day,” he says. “Let’s say I order a thousand test…Lots of times these tests are under allocations, so they won’t necessarily give you a thousand tests, they might send you 300 or 500,” he says.
UW Health doesn’t have an emergency supply of testing kits to fall back on, according to Pothof. Right now, the hospital does daily counts to avoid running out.
“And if we were seeing ourselves starting to run out, we’d probably have to pull back on some of these lower tiers. Right now that’s not where we’re at, but it gets really complicated. You look at all the people you want to test and you try to figure out who’s going to benefit the least from this and then you work your way back from there when you start to run out,” Pothof says.
Currently, the hospital has enough kits to test even asymptomatic patients. It’s partly preventative, and helps ensure that the hospital doesn’t inadvertently admit someone who’s contracted COVID-19 but isn’t showing symptoms. The hospital is also testing employees with any symptoms — even those with allergy symptoms.
In a separate press conference today, Department of Health Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm said federalization would simplify the medical supply chain. She says, currently, state health departments across the country are competing with each other for a limited supply of testing kits and PPE.
According to Palm, a coordinated federal effort is required to prevent the inter-state competition.
“It is true that we do continue to compete with other states around the country. Our ability to do that in a way that is effective and that ensures that Wisconsin will have what it needs is hindered by the fact that we are all competing against each other,” she says. “Some of these supply chain issues, absent a coordinated federal effort, certainly could be hampered.”