[UPDATED] FEMA to Distribute PPE Supplies Hospices Need, but Hospitals Taking Priority

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is distributing N95 and surgical masks and other supplies to health care organizations in states hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, including New York and Washington. However, it remains unclear whether hospices will have access to these supplies or if they are being sent primarily to hospitals.

Hospices nationwide have been struggling to maintain their supply inventories, particularly for personal protective equipment (PPE) designed for infection prevention and control, but also for items such as thermometers and cleaning products.

President Trump announced the distribution during a press briefing on the outbreak.

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“FEMA is distributing 8 million N95 respirator masks and 13.3 million surgical masks across the country right now, focusing on the areas with the greatest need,” the president said. “We have shipped 73 pallets of personal protective equipment to New York City and 36 pallets to the State of Washington.”

The pandemic has been pushing the limits of the U.S. health care system across all settings, including both acute and post-acute care. Hospitals have been overrun with patients, and many fear demand will outstrip supply for beds, PPE, ventilators and other equipment.

FEMA did not confirm the amount of PPE the agency is distributing, nor did the agency indicate which types of health care providers would be receiving the equipment.

“FEMA and our interagency partners are working to meet demands for personal protective equipment (PPE) through new acquisition, DOD allocation or Strategic National Stockpile sources. FEMA does not stock medical supplies and [the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services] is in charge of those commodities through the Strategic National Stockpile,” a FEMA spokesperson told Hospice News in an e-mail. “Additionally, the public-private sector partnership is a primary part of the solution. The Department of Homeland Security’s National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) is coordinating with the private sector on any PPE needs. The private sector can directly purchase PPE from manufacturers and distributors, as they normally do.”

In a statement, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office indicated that the state had received supplies from the federal government, including 339,760 N-95 masks, 861,700 surgical masks, 353,300 gloves, 145,122 gowns and 197,085 face shields. The governor’s statement said that these supplies were being delivered to a temporary FEMA-run hospital, the Jacob K. Javits Center, and made no mention of any supplies being sent to other health care providers.

“Now we must focus on increasing our hospital capacity and our supply stockpile as quickly as we can to ensure our health care system is prepared to handle the apex of the wave,” Cuomo said.

President Trump indicated that FEMA has been receiving donations of PPE that could be sent to health care organizations.

“In the past 96 hours, FEMA has also received donations of approximately 6.5 million masks. We’re having millions and millions of masks made as we speak, and other personal protective equipment, which we will be distributing to medical hotspots. We’re focused on some of the hotspots across the nation,” Trump said.