by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | April 09, 2020
President Donald J. Trump lambasted a report published last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that claims that U.S. hospitals are facing supply shortages and testing delays as they grapple with a surge of COVID-19 patients.
The commander-in-chief denounced the study on Monday as inaccurate and “just wrong,” and accused HHS principal deputy inspector general and author of the report Christi Grimm of being politically motivated in her findings, according to Politico
"It still could be her opinion,” he said during a briefing of the White House coronavirus task force. “When was she appointed? Do me a favor and let me know. Let me know now. I have to know.”
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Trump did not provide evidence of what was incorrect in the report, the findings of which are based on telephone interviews with hospital administrators at 323 hospitals across 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Interviews took place between March 23 and 27, and the rate of contact was 85%.
The primary challenge among many was severe shortages in testing supplies and extended waiting for results that limited their ability to monitor the health of patients. This, along with widespread shortages of personal protective equipment and thermometers increased risk of exposure for staff and patients. Adequate staffing and expanding capacity were also issues, with many hospitals expecting to be overwhelmed from anticipated surges in patients, as well as ventilator shortages and increasing costs amidst decreasing revenues.
Hospital administrators reported using unvetted and nontraditional sources of supplies and medical equipment to make up for shortages, and to secure necessary PPE and ventilators.They also trained anesthesiologists, hospitalists and nursing staff to care for patients on ventilators. Some extended ambulatory care to patients with less severe symptoms and telehealth services whenever possible, and set up alternative facilities for additional space on fairgrounds, in college dorms and in closed correctional facilities.
One source of confusion for many was changing and sometimes inconsistent guidance from the federal, state and local authorities. Respondents asserted that the federal government should create greater access to testing, supplies and equipment, as well as help with workforce allocation, capacity expansion, hospital finances, and communicating information to the public.