Stefanik supports voluntary redeployment of ventilators

Rep. Elise Stefanik (Official congressional photo)

Rep. Elise Stefanik voiced her support for a plan that would allow for the voluntary redeployment of ventilators and other machines to high-need hospitals as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The congresswoman, R-Schuylerville, described the plan, announced by the Hospital Association of New York State Monday, as a “walk-back” by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

On Friday, Cuomo had announced plans to sign an executive order that would allow the state to seize and redeploy excess ventilators and personal protective equipment from health care facilities not currently using them.

The governor had said he would use the National Guard to collect the equipment, and hospitals were informed that as much as 20 percent of their unused ventilators could be redeployed.

Stefanik came out hard and fast against that proposal, calling for transparency on how it would be implemented and prioritization of upstate New York’s needs.

An executive order Cuomo issued Tuesday made no mention of using the National Guard or a required percentage of ventilators, and said the state Department of Health may shift such items not currently needed by a health care facility in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DOH will either return the items when they are no longer urgently needed or ensure adequate compensation to the sending hospitals.

“Win for all”

HANYS announced Monday that a voluntary effort to redeploy available ventilators to where they are needed was coordinated with regional hospital association partners in collaboration with Cuomo.

Hospitals where there are limited COVID-19 cases are identifying ventilators, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines they could rapidly redeploy if necessary, the HANYS statement read.

The identified equipment will remain at its home hospital until redeployment is necessary.

If that occurs, HANYS will work with the facilities to geo-code and transport the equipment.

That will allow the sending hospital to know where its ventilators are and when they have arrived there, facilitating a smooth return, the statement said.

“I believe our hospitals are going to do all that they absolutely can, but each hospital is in a different situation,” Stefanik said in a conference call with media Tuesday.

“If we end up where HANYS and my office is advocating for, this voluntary solution, I think that’s a win for all New Yorkers.”

Says more testing needed

Stefanik continued to stress the need for improved testing capabilities, and said there has been a significant lag in the state meeting North Country counties’ inquiries for more testing supplies and additional PPE.

She said the region should have multiple mobile testing centers, and that requests for those have been made by county public health and elected officials.

“I think they are necessary upstate … particularly given the high population that are seniors and then the number of seasonal residents who have shifted to their second homes.

“We have to get the testing data in order to drive the public health decisions.”

Office calls

Stefanik said her office has received a lot of calls from people experiencing issues with the state’s unemployment application website as well as companies who are willing to re-purpose to manufacture PPE, but have yet to hear back from the state.

She advised small businesses who are having issues obtaining loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration to work primarily with their banks and credit unions.

“We are pushing the SBA as quickly as possible to get these loans funded.”

Stefanik’s office and the New York Farm Bureau plan to hold an outreach call with area dairy farmers Friday or Monday.

Next relief package

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act — the third piece of federal COVID-19 relief legislation — included funding for community health centers, but more needs to be done, Stefanik said.

She anticipates that more funding both for hospitals and community health centers will be included in the next legislative package.

It may also include increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which makes loans administered by the SBA forgivable if businesses use them for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities, Stefanik predicted.

“This, too, shall pass”

To those who had planned to celebrate Easter with their loved ones this coming weekend, Stefanik stressed the importance of continuing to abide by public health guidance and recommendations.

“This, too, shall pass, and we need to get beyond this,” she said, “but as we’ve seen, the numbers are continuing to increase in upstate counties and we still have a lack of testing capabilities.”

Regardless of age, income bracket or whether they live in rural, suburban or urban communities, people should be listening to public health officials’ advice, Stefanik said.

“It is so important, particularly over the next 30 days, to abide by social distancing, to really heed the advice of mitigating any non-essential travel and that’s to protect your loved ones, your friends and neighbors.”

“We are losing lives because people aren’t following this guidance.”


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