State Seeks Unused Ventilators and Protective Equipment on Voluntary Basis, Expands Surge Volunteer Force

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Last Friday, as part of the State’s surge capacity plan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he’ll be signing an Executive Order allowing the state to take ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) from upstate hospitals and move them downstate depending on need. He said he would dispatch the National Guard throughout the state to retrieve the ventilators and PPE. Earlier this week, he issued the Executive Order, which provides that “any medical equipment (PPE, ventilators, respirators, bi-pap, anesthesia, or other necessary equipment or supplies as determined by the Commissioner of Health) that is held in inventory by any entity in the state, or otherwise located in the state shall be reported to the Department of Health (DOH).”

The Governor is essentially asking all hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities to take stock of their unused equipment and provide a report to the DOH. The DOH, in turn, may seek to have those items not currently needed or used transferred to a facility in urgent need of such inventory. Having said that, due to backlash over the harshness of this policy and following the efforts of the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), the Governor clarified his intentions to “seize” equipment. He now seeks hospitals to volunteer their unused equipment for the state’s greater good.

The voluntary relinquishment of unused resources ensures that those New York hospitals, facilities and health care workers with immediate need have the resources necessary to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Order suggests that the DOH will either return the inventory as soon as no longer urgently needed and/or “in consultation with the Division of the Budget, ensure compensation is paid for any goods or materials acquired at the rates prevailing in the market at the time of acquisition.”

Since last week, the Governor has sought to transfer COVID-19 patients to Albany and other areas of the state for care and treatment. This is being done largely to reduce the burden on downstate hospitals. In addition, the Governor continues to seek medical professionals to volunteer their services to fight on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, over 100,000 medical professionals from across the country have “enlisted” in the reserve volunteer healthcare workforce. In order to smooth the path, the Governor has used his executive authority to relax medical licensing and scope of practice standards and will shield health care workers from civil and criminal liability. DOH has information on joining the NYS health care provider reserve workforce at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/get-involved-how-you-can-help.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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