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The group says it’s necessary to protect physicians.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) is calling for the Trump administration to use the Defense Protection Act to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for physicians and hospital staff on the front lines of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
In an open letter addressed to President Donald J. Trump and sent to congressional leaders, Robert M. McLean, MD, President of ACP, says that using the Korean War-era law to make PPE such as masks, gowns, and gloves, which are in short supply, will help protect the physicians and staff at the highest risk of infection due to their proximity to the infected.
Trump has signaled reticence to use the law to have more PPE produced, but in a cryptic April 2 tweet seemed to say that he was invoking it as a sort of punishment against 3M, manufacturer of N95 respirators, due to some sort of malfeasance. The claim was made without evidence.
The letter applauds Trump’s use of DPA to push General Motors to begin building ventilators, but also notes the extreme shortages of PPE which have led hospital staff to start crowdfunding campaigns and improvise their own equipment using household items.
This lack of PPE has led The Joint Commission to put its weight behind a push to allow hospital staff to use equipment from home.
“Physicians, nurses, and other health professionals are putting their health and safety at risk in their efforts to care for patients and contain spread of the virus,” the letter says. “It is paramount that we properly equip and protect our frontline health workers. Inadequate protection puts those who are treating the sick at greater risk of contracting the virus, causing a ripple effect and significantly reducing the capacity of the entire health system.”
There have been widely shared reports of hundreds of frontline healthcare workers contracting the virus and many dying and without increased production of PPE that number will increase and put the rest of the nation at risk, the letter notes.
The letter outlines recommendations for Trump and lawmakers:
· The administration should use Title I of the DPA to require manufacturers to prioritize the production of PPE for domestic consumption and sale to the government for distribution in an equitable fashion that eliminates current bidding wars for the lifesaving equipment between states. The administration should also, in conjunction with a joint resolution from Congress, explore imposing price controls on PPE.
· The administration should offer manufacturers capital and equipment, through Title II of the DPA, to expand facilities and increase production of PPE for distribution and for the Strategic National Stockpile
· The administration should, through Title VII of the DPA, create voluntary agreements with private industry that would allow for manufacturers to coordinate in the production of PPE
“ACP shares the Administration’s goal of containing the spread of the virus and appreciates the efforts already undertaken by the Administration to address some of the equipment shortage and price gouging issues,” the letter says. “However, the College contends the threat to our frontline physicians, nurses, and health professionals is dire and immediate action through the DPA must be taken to circumvent the bureaucratic and lengthy procurement process and get the necessary PPE to hospitals and clinics in a timely manner.”