April 29, 2020

Joe Neguse, Van Taylor Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Establish Federal Commission to Oversee Strategic National Stockpile

The 10-member, bipartisan Commission would report to Congress outlining measures taken to properly maintain inventory levels of emergency supplies 

Washington D.C.—Today, Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO-02) and Congressman Van Taylor (R-TX-03) announced the introduction of a bill establishing a Federal Commission to address the current shortcomings of the Strategic National Stockpile. The Commission on the Strategic National Supply Act will establish a 10-member bipartisan Commission which will assess, strategize, and issue recommendations for the best methods to appropriately stock the supply for local, state and national emergencies. The members of the Commission will be chosen by the President, Speaker of the House, Minority Leader of the House, Majority Leader of the Senate, and Minority Leader of the Senate—with each official appointing two members.

“The COVID-19 pandemic sweeping our nation has exposed the shortcomings of the Strategic National Stockpile to adequately provide states and localities across our nation with critical personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other desperately needed supplies,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “In light of these shortcomings, we must have dedicated oversight and forward looking assessments of this vital inventory to ensure that we will never again be unprepared to react to any emergency situation we encounter.”

Across Colorado and the nation, frontline health care workers are struggling to gain access to even the most basic personal protective equipment which is critical for provider and patient safety alike, as the fight against this highly infectious COVID-19 disease continues.

In Greeley, Colorado, Banner North Colorado Medical Center’s personal protective equipment usage has gone up sevenfold during the outbreak compared to normal utilization. The amount of PPE that would be used in a week is now being used in just one day.  

“The ability to procure more PPE through normal and secondary channels becomes very labor intensive,” said Larry Chenault, Director of Supply Chain Services at Banner North Colorado Medical Center. “Requesting products from local, state, and federal caches is cumbersome and many times these supplies are not made available as quickly as needed and the quantities distributed are limited.”

“Personal protective equipment—or PPE (gloves, gowns, masks and goggles) —is critically important in the care of COVID-19 patients,” said Julie Lonborg, Senior Vice President of the Colorado Hospital Association. “These protective pieces equal people as employees in all health care settings across our state depend on it to ensure they can safely care for patients. Unfortunately, the supply chain for these items has been disrupted and currently is wholly unreliable. This is true for urban medical centers, rural hospitals and every facet of the healthcare system in between. Nursing homes and physician practices, which are critical to keeping people out of the hospital, report little if any success in getting PPE, as do larger urban and rural hospitals. A return to a reliable supply of PPE is critical as Colorado seeks to “reopen” the state and ensure that Coloradans who need care—COVID-19 or otherwise—can get the care they need, where and when they need it.”

"The national shortage of PPE is well documented. To date, Boulder Community Health has not received a single item of PPE from the state or federal governments," said Dr. Robert Vissers, President and CEO of Boulder Community Health. "Our early efforts to protect and preserve our inventory of PPE made us better prepared during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in our community. As a local independent health system, we’ve had to work relentlessly to preserve and increase our stores of PPE in order to be ready for a major surge in the number of patients in our care. This has taken significant effort and ingenuity. In addition to intensive efforts to purchase additional PPE through a wide network of medical supply companies and manufacturers, we implemented ultraviolet light disinfection of N-95 masks to conserve and safely extend the use of that important equipment. We’ve also benefited greatly from generous donations of PPE from community members and local businesses."

“We have been fortunate to benefit from advanced planning in order to have sufficient PPE to be able to continue caring for our patients during this pandemic,” said Dr. Kathleen Cowie, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Summit Community Care Clinic. “We have continued to be stewards of the PPE we have to make it last as long as possible.  The challenge lies in the unknown—how long will we need to provide primary care to our sick patients in a tent?  Will we ever be able to co-locate with our dental colleagues and provide preventive dental care?  Many of these questions come down to having sufficient PPE for the long haul—and that is just something we can’t assure quite yet.” 

“COVID-19 has presented an unprecedented threat and has impacted every facet of life as we know it,” said Congressman Van Taylor. “We are facing serious disruptions to our pharmaceutical and medical supply chains and while we continue to increase domestic production efforts to combat this pandemic, it’s imperative we understand and learn from the current situation. By creating this bipartisan commission, we can help ensure the Strategic National Stockpile contains the supplies and resources needed by federal, state, and local governments in times of crisis and improve our nation’s ability to prepare for future national emergencies.”

The bill will require the Commission to submit a report to Congress one year after its creation outlining its strategic recommendations.

Congressman Joe Neguse and Congressman Van Taylor serve as Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Innovation and Entrepreneurship Caucus.