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HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed an order that allows the state to “commandeer” personal protective equipment and ventilators from health care providers and manufacturers, and transfer the supplies to another facility in need as Pennsylvania prepares for an “imminent surge” in coronavirus cases.
Wolf said Wednesday the order will allow the state to move “key equipment” to high population areas that have been greatly impacted, as well as to areas with lower populations that “don’t have existing resources.”
“This will also prevent sick Pennsylvanians from having to choose which hospital to go to for fear that some have less access to equipment than others and it will help us make use of every ventilator, every piece of PPE, and every medical worker," Wolf said in a statement.
Health care providers, both private and public, as well as manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers, will be required to submit current inventory to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency within five days.
According to the order, the state will pay for the supplies “under terms and conditions agreed upon."
When asked during a Wednesday briefing if the order amounts to “confiscation” of needed supplies, Wolf replied, “I’m trying to make sure that we take this scarce set of resources that we have and make sure that we’re deploying them in the areas that need them the most."
States including Pennsylvania have struggled to obtain enough PPE and ventilators from a federal stockpile and from private companies, as the demand for these items spikes.
David N. Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, said the order “was sprung on all of us ex nihilo.”
“We have no idea what to do with it,” said Taylor, whose association represents Pennsylvania’s largest manufacturers. He said the staffers and officials he and other manufacturers are working with in Wolf’s Department of Community and Economic Development were also caught off guard.
“We need a streamlined, cooperative process that respects the private sector, rather than one that micromanages us and treats us like the enemy,” he said.
In a statement, the head of the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, which represents providers statewide, emphasized an existing Statewide Mutual Aid Agreement, “which provides for assistance among health care organizations to support each other in times of supply, equipment, and/or staffing shortages.”
“Guided by our shared goal to ensure that all communities have the resources they need, when they need them, we look forward to working with the Wolf Administration to secure and deploy every available source of supplies and ensure that allocation of resources is orderly, effective, and collaborative,” President and CEO Andy Carter said.
The state on Wednesday also rolled out a dashboard that shows how many hospital beds and ventilators are in use in each county.
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