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Oregon mayors join national call, urge Trump Administration to centrally purchase and distribute medical supplies

“We have to all be in this together,” says Mayor Russ Axelrod.
For Immediate Release

WEST LINN, OR -- More than 110 mayors and county executives across 18 states delivered a letter to the Trump administration Friday, urging the federal government to use its emergency powers to ramp up production of critical medical supplies like ventilators and masks, and to centrally distribute those materials. EIght Oregon mayors joined the call, including Mayor Russ Axelrod of West Linn and Rick Rogers of Newberg. 

“State and local governments rely on the federal government for aid and assistance during times of national emergency. Getting in bidding wars while so many Americans are getting sick makes no sense,” said Mayor Axelrod. “Americans have always shown a willingness to help their neighbor in times of need. It’s time for us to start working together, save lives and get through this crisis.”

Health experts warn that a dearth of medical supplies -- from ventilators to N95 masks -- needed to safely treat people infected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) could lead to higher infection and death rates. However, the federal government and all 50 states are competing with each other to procure and distribute those crucial items. 

“We’re all working towards the same goals -- saving lives and getting through this public health crisis as safely as possible. We shouldn’t be competing for critical medical supplies; we should be coordinating,” said OSPIRG Health Care Advocate Numi Lee Griffith. 

The letter started by OSPIRG’s national affiliate, U.S. PIRG, calls for the federal government to step up its efforts to increase production of medical supplies and centrally coordinate medical equipment during the COVID-19 crisis.

In recent days, the president has taken some action to increase federal involvement with allocation and production of medical equipment, including through the creation of a Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) The FEMA task force, however, has laid out a mission that focuses on facilitating private sector operations, rather than taking charge of the national supply chain. As a result, states and health care providers are still being forced to bid against one another for life saving supplies, and hospitals are not getting the materials they need. 

“We need federal action to get critical medical supplies directly to where they're most needed. Current actions fall short, and counterproductively leave in place a system that forces states and hospitals into bidding wars that result in some hospitals not getting what they need to protect healthcare workers and properly care for patients,” said Griffith. 

The letter from mayors calls on the federal government to establish a medical equipment task force that will oversee the purchase and end-to-end distribution of medical equipment, and monitor and respond to all equipment requests from states, local governments and/or medical providers. It must also be carried out with full transparency and clear communication from the federal government to state governments and all other stakeholders. 

 

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