Coronavirus in Oklahoma: State makes 'multimillion-dollar' PPE purchase
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Oklahoma has made a "multimillion-dollar" private purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and could have the supplies in two weeks, state officials have told hospital CEOs.
The state secretary of health and mental health, Jerome Loughridge, and secretary of science and innovation, Kayse Shrum, made the disclosure in a letter emailed Wednesday night. Personal protective equipment includes, most significantly, masks, which are used to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The two secretaries, who serve on Gov. Kevin Stitt's cabinet, also told hospital CEOs that the health department is not withholding supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) pursuant to an audit.
Earlier this week, the health department deployed supplies from the stockpile to hospitals in Washington County, Cleveland County and Tulsa County, according to their letter.
"Gov. Kevin Stitt and the State of Oklahoma are committed to resourcing all of Oklahoma’s hospitals that are on the front lines of responding to COVID-19," they wrote.
"During this very critical time, the SNS is reserved only for hospitals that have ICU services and that are treating persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19 or patients who have received a positive test result.
"Please understand that this means the State’s reserve of personal protective equipment (PPE) cannot be the primary supply source to make your hospitals whole on supplies. SNS will be reserved for replenishing those who are delivering front line COVID-19 services.
"To date, the State’s reserves have largely been dependent on shipments deployed by the federal government. Gov. Stitt has instructed the State to aggressively pursue purchasing of PPE through private manufacturers, with a multimillion-dollar PPE order placed this week that could take up to 2 weeks to arrive," they wrote.
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Some medical providers became upset after an EMSA executive reported being told by a health department official that the agency was going to verify hospital information before releasing personal protective equipment.
"We have been notified that the SNS allocation is being held up because of the inconsistencies and believed inaccuracies in hospital reporting PPE supply, PPE utilization rates and capacity via EM Resource," Johna Easley, chief administrative officer of Emergency Medical Services Authority, told other medical providers in an email Tuesday.
"To ensure the allocation can be appropriately apportioned," the Health Department with the assistance of the Multi Agency Coordination Center "will be calling all hospitals to verify PPE data and information submitted and will be calling to verify bed reporting numbers as well," Easley wrote.
The health department's letter to hospital CEOs did not directly address the verification process beyond saying that it is not an audit.
A health department spokeswoman told The Oklahoman on Thursday that the actual amount of personal protective equipment on hand in a hospital was verified by phone with hospital personnel before any was deployed from the stockpile.
The cabinet secretaries told hospital CEOs that "it is critical that hospitals continue to report daily current levels of PPE ... so that we can distribute the stockpile quickly and equitably."
"Without your hospital’s reporting, we cannot get an adequate accounting of your needs," they wrote.
The health department provided no specifics Thursday on the private PPE purchase.
"Once we have details we can provide you with more information," spokeswoman Shelley Zumwalt said. "State funds were used to purchase the materials, but there are a substantial number of reimbursements through the federal government."