Why the US needs to mitigate medical 'supply gaps'

29 September 2020

The White House has dismissed criticism of its response to supply constraints for medical products, branding the Congressional watchdog a “useful idiot”.

A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the US government had taken action on “multiple fronts to address challenges that have contributed to catastrophic loss of life and profound economic disruption” in its response to Covid-19.

However despite efforts taken to improve availability of supplies, it warned there were still “ongoing constraints around certain types of PPE and testing supplies”. 

“As supply constraints continue, we found that HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] have not developed plans outlining specific actions the federal government will take to help mitigate remaining medical supply gaps needed to respond to the pandemic.”

According to the report, officials from seven states identified “previous or ongoing shortages of testing supplies, including swabs, reagents, tubes and pipettes”. 

“Testing supply shortages have contributed to delays in turnaround times for testing results. Delays in processing test results have multiple serious consequences, including delays in isolating those who test positive and tracing their contacts in a timely manner [...] allowing the virus to spread undetected.”

The report added it was “critically important” the organisations define roles and responsibilities with their federal partners for managing the medical supply chain to sustain progress. 

“Until HHS and FEMA work with their federal partners [...] they risk losing the momentum and expertise developed up to this point in the response,” it said. 

“Additionally, without clearly defined roles and responsibilities, the federal response structure may be unable to respond to new supply chain challenges that could emerge.”

The report recommended that HHS and FEMA develop and communicate plans and outline “specific actions the federal government will take to help mitigate remaining medical supply gaps” necessary to respond to the remainder of the pandemic.

Findings from the report have been disputed by the White House, which accused the GAO of failing to be “non-partisan”.

Peter Navarro, White House economic adviser, told Yahoo News: “It is well-known that the GAO is neither non-partisan or independent but simply a useful idiot for the Democrat Party and Big Labour.

“Its bureaucrats lean heavily left and contribute equally heavily to Democrat candidates. In this election season, this new report is without merit and simply an in-kind contribution to the Biden campaign.”

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