NH delegation, governor slam FEMA's aid response

March 27, 2020

The state's congressional delegation sent a harshly critical letter to Trump administration officials, charging the Federal Emergency Management Agency with a "poor response" to their request for medical supplies.

The federal agency has been guilty of a failed bureaucratic incompetence that included the delivery of useless materials, they said.

These mistakes have included delays in delivering supplies, providing expired equipment, dispersing materials that can't be used in most medical settings due to allergens, and sending shipments of resources in bits and pieces instead of full allotments.

"Our understanding is that an error at the national supervisory level at the Federal Emergency Management Agency resulted in the March 17th request sitting 'unprocessed’ for four days. This type of delay is unacceptable and puts the health of Granite Staters at risk," said the letter signed by U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen as well as U.S. Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster, all D-N.H.

Asked about the letter, Gov. Chris Sununu said he was glad the state’s members of Congress were speaking out.

For the past week the Republican governor had been describing FEMA’s efforts at different times as "frustrating," "slow" and "discombobulated."

"I join them 100 percent in their criticism," Sununu said.

The governor said he believes FEMA officials want to help but have focused only on getting supplies to the nation’s "hot spots" such as New York and the state of Washington while other states have gone wanting.

"The communication has been very difficult," the governor said.

17,000 useless gloves sent

The letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor noted that many of the supplies sent to New Hampshire had expired and that nearly all 17,000 medical gloves sent to the state were useless because they were latex and could not be used due to patient or health provider allergies.

"New Hampshire hospitals and first responders expect a significant surge of coronavirus cases in the coming days and are running dangerously low on many critical supplies," the letter said.

The state had received two shipments since making its request and they fell short of the need in the following areas:

- N95 respirator masks, only 28% delivered;

- Nasal swabs, only one third sent;

— Surgical masks, only 26% of supply delivered and,

— Ventilators, none of the 45 requested have been sent.

NH Health and Human Services Secretary Lori Shibinette said the state has placed an order on the commercial market for ventilators.

"Health care providers from across New Hampshire are exasperated by this piecemeal approach which has not afforded them the supplies they need," the delegation said.

"These providers also need a reliable partner in order to plan supply use based on expected shipments from the stockpile. Instead, FEMA and HHS efforts to date have proven unreliable which has undermined the planning process."

Governor has called top officials

Sununu said earlier last week he spoke personally to Vice President Mike Pence and FEMA Administrator Gaynor about this matter.

"I think FEMA is trying but there seems to be a lack of communication to what we are asking for," Sununu said.

"I appreciate what they are trying to do in Washington, responding to the hot spots but that cannot be done at the expense and the management of all the other states. The criticism was completely valid."

Late last week, President Donald Trump said some governors are asking for unnecessary supplies from the federal governments and that the states should take the majority of the burden to obtain them.

"I think that a lot of things are being said that are more," Trump said. "I don’t think certain things will materialize, a lot of equipment is being asked for that I don’t think they’ll need."

"But we are building four medical centers and many other things we have developed and sent thousands of ventilators and hopefully, they’re going to do well but you have to know, this has to be managed by local government and by the governors; can’t be managed by the federal government."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has criticized the Trump administration for failing to meet his state’s need for 30,000 ventilators to deal with the surge of cases.

"I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they are going to be," Trump added. "I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go to major hospitals, sometimes they have two ventilators."


By:  Kevin Landrigan
Source: Union Leader