U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is calling on President Donald Trump to compel additional production of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid reports of shortages in Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.
“We write to express profound concern over your failure to fully implement the Defense Production Act to meet the growing demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) across the nation’s public health systems, as well as the largest integrated health system, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),” reads a letter to the President.
“An increasing number of media reports and our direct conversations with VA personnel indicate that VA healthcare facilities are struggling to guarantee the availability of necessary PPE for its health care providers and staff who are still working in hospitals to support veteran care. Any shortages or rationing of PPE within VA’s health system pose unnecessary and intolerable risks to our veterans and VA health care providers who are on the front lines of the war against this virus.”
Wasserman Schultz cosigned that letter with fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
Officials have called on Trump to fully utilize the Defense Production Act for weeks as concerns about the impact of the virus ran high. That law allows the federal government to force private companies to produce emergency equipment.
Many projections here in Florida now show hospitals have mostly avoided an overflow in hospitalizations thanks to stringent social distancing restrictions, which have cut down on the spread of the virus.
But while many hospitals throughout Florida — and the nation — haven’t been maxed out completely, they’ve still faced a surge in admissions which have drained PPE availability.
That includes VA hospitals. The VA has reported using up to 200,000 masks in a day, according to Axios. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has also sent 500,000 masks to the agency, but shortages repeatedly persist.
Wasserman Schultz puts the blame for those shortages on President Trump’s shoulders.
“We understand that due to the delay in activation and method in which your administration is utilizing the Defense Production Act, VA does not have adequate PPE,” the letter continues.
“It is tragic that due to your Administration’s disorganized response and failure to use its full powers under the Defense Production Act, VA, states, other federal agencies, and public hospitals simply are not equipped with the PPE that they need to treat the impacted population. Fully invoking the Defense Production Act could prevent this moving forward.”
Trump has periodically resisted invoking the act, praising private companies for stepping up PPE production on their own. But Wasserman Schultz and Schatz say those efforts have fallen short.