HARTFORD, CT — The state of Connecticut has struggled for weeks to get its hands on the critical personal protective equipment frontline healthcare workers need to safely care for patients with COVID-19. However, officials said Thursday they believe things are beginning to turn around.
“The world we are living in right now is different from the normal world of procurement,” said Josh Geballe, head of the Department of Administrative Services, which makes most of the purchases for the state of Connecticut.
He said they started placing orders with their suppliers a month ago and the delivery dates started to slip and get rescheduled as the need for PPE grew along with the cases of COVID-19.
“There’s a global shortage of PPE,” Geballe said.
Geballe said they have received 1,000 referrals from people claiming a connection to someone who is able to source these materials. Most of the PPE is manufactured in China, and Geballe said most of the referrals they received have been unable to deliver on their promises.
He said some of these brokers want 100% of the payment upfront to a foreign bank account and it’s hard to say which ones are legitimate and which are not. He said the six-state attempt to purchase PPE was abandoned because of uncertainty about the source of the materials.
Geballe said although he has no evidence of this, it’s possible Connecticut was outbid for supplies at one point by the federal government. Geballe said they had been waiting for a large amount of PPE from a specific supplier, whom he declined to name, and then suddenly Connecticut got a small amount of what they had requested from that supplier in a delivery from the federal government.
Connecticut did receive an order of 200,000 N95 masks Wednesday, but they are still looking for surgical masks, face shields and gowns.
“A couple other shipments should be arriving shortly,” Geballe said. “I’m optimistic we’re going to be seeing a significant increase.”
Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that he’s confident that the orders they have placed will quickly come to fruition.
Lamont said they have validated 259 sources of PPE, mostly private companies or individuals in Connecticut who have relationships with factories in China, and the state placed orders with 78 of them.
“Most of the offers have to be carefully vetted,” Lamont said.
Geballe said he thinks they’re getting close to seeing a “significant wave of PPE coming to the state.”
In the meantime, “we do have enough,” Geballe said. “But there hasn’t been enough advance lead time for the supply.”
Connecticut has ordered about $50 million or 18.8 million units of PPE.
“The supply out there is beginning to catch up with the demand,” Lamont said. “Josh has been sourcing this really carefully and we’re seeing 200,000 masks yesterday, I think you’re going to see supplies coming in faster and faster.”
In the meantime, nursing home workers like Chelsea Daniels, a licensed practical nurse at Fresh River Healthcare in East Windsor, are reusing the small amount of PPE they have.
During a conference call Wednesday, Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199 New England, said healthcare workers have been instructed to fashion their own protection against the virus. He showed a photograph of one woman who created a smock out of a clear plastic trash bag.
“We’re at risk and nobody seems to care,” Daniels said.
At least one nurse in the union has died since the outbreak.
Lamont Says PPE Supplies Will Improve – READ: https://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/20200409_lamont_says_ppe_supplies_will_improve/
Posted by CTNewsJunkie on Thursday, April 9, 2020
Hospitals, states, and nursing homes have been going out directly into the marketplace to source their own PPE for their employees and their success has been mixed.
Bob Stefanowski, the Republican who ran for governor, helped start an effort to make sure first responders and frontline workers have access to these Level 1, FDA-approved surgical masks.
In a phone interview Thursday, Stefanowski said his network has delivered masks to 450 locations in 140 of Connecticut’s 169 towns. The group has delivered masks to at least 100 nursing homes. Workers at several of the homes have complained of a woefully insufficient supply of PPE.
Stefanowski, who initially sought to remain anonymous and didn’t want to make his efforts seem partisan, said he was able to source a broker in New Jersey who had masks. He went to check them out in person and then brought them back to the hospitals to see if they were a quality product. Once he learned they were sufficient, he helped purchase 650,000 of them with the help of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, which is accepting donations for the effort.
Last week Stefanowski and Patrick Sasser, founder of the No Tolls CT movement, headed to a warehouse in New Jersey with a U-Haul to pick up the masks.
Stefanowski said he has given information about his New Jersey broker to at least two hospitals who have followed up and purchased thousands more.
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said all of the money raised through the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, will continue to help purchase masks.
“Just the donation of 75 cents to this website will pay for a mask for a nursing home worker, a first responder or an elderly person living at home,’’ Candelora said.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said there needs to be more visibility and transparency over what the federal government is purchasing and then redistributing to the states.
He said the current supply chain looks like it did during the Hoover administration.
Murphy wishes the Trump administration was doing this on their own and using the Defense Production Act to require manufacturers here in the United States manufacture PPE. He said what is happening now is unsustainable.
The federal government is managing about 40% of the supply chain and without transparency, Murphy said. This leaves states believing they are on their own to fend for themselves when it comes to purchasing PPE, Murphy added.
The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform issued a report Wednesday that found states received at least three shipments of PPE and supplies, and a few states received an additional shipment. According to Health and Human Services staff, most of these shipments were not based on states’ requests.
The last shipment Connecticut received was on March 28. There won’t be any more.
The remaining 10% of PPE in the national stockpile is reserved for federal workers and will not be distributed to states.