Like a bad Santa, instead of delivering medical supplies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been accused again of hijacking desperately needed protective gear for first responders and health care workers — this time in a Massachusetts town.
Milford Fire Chief William Touhey Jr. accused the agency of commandeering 30,000 gowns as well as masks that the department had ordered. Some of the protective gear was to be used by first responders, and the rest were to go to the Milford Regional Medical Center, the Milford Daily News reported.
“At the last minute, we were notified” that the shipment “wouldn’t be coming,” Touhey told WCVB-TV in Boston. “The government had stepped in and taken possession.”
Touhey told the Daily News that he was informed he wouldn’t receive any of the gowns and has so far received only 500 of the 2,500 masks ordered.
Nurses were so desperate for the protective gear that they had “held up cardboard signs” for passing motorists, “asking for donations of anything: ponchos, gloves and [the] kinds of things that they could use in a medical setting,” Touhey told Boston 25 News.
FEMA issued a statement that it works with an organization and companies that may be “obligated to sell a predetermined percentage of their cargo to areas that HHS [Health and Human Services] and FEMA identified as hot spots. This ... may be misconstrued as FEMA ‘commandeering’ supplies.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly ordered states to get their own supplies to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and to not rely on equipment from the National Emergency Stockpile. But when they do locate their own supplies, many state officials have complained that FEMA holds up the orders and redirects the goods to places the Trump administration chooses.
FEMA seized 500 lifesaving ventilators ordered by Colorado last week, according to state officials. Trump then restored 100 of them, crediting Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who’s in the middle of a tough reelection campaign in the state. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) accused the president of “playing politics” with people’s lives by doling out critical supplies like patronage.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — a Democrat whom Trump has frequently targeted because of what he calls her “complaints” — revealed last month that vendors with whom her state had contracted for desperately needed medical equipment were told “not to send stuff,” on orders from the Trump administration.
Several hospitals in seven states surveyed by the Los Angeles Times complained that FEMA officials were showing up unannounced and seizing their supplies, leaving them desperately short and uncertain about where to turn for more equipment.
PeaceHealth, a 10-hospital system in Washington, Oregon and Alaska, had a shipment of testing supplies confiscated. “It’s incredibly frustrating,” CEO Richard DeCarlo told the newspaper.
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