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‘Swept Up by FEMA’: Complicated Medical Supply System Sows Confusion

Confusion still plagues some communities. After Somerset County, N.J., secured an order of 35,000 N95 and other surgical masks, the shipment was taken by the federal government, Shanel Y. Robinson, the county’s freeholder director, told The Franklin Reporter & Advocate.

Garren Colvin, the head of the board for the Kentucky Hospital Association, wrote last week to members of Congress saying that four shipments of protective gear were taken by FEMA before they could be delivered to the hospitals that had originally contracted for the supplies.

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said the state’s new position was “until the thing shows up here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it doesn’t exist.”

Private companies have also appeared to lose out on supplies. Dr. Ed Ellison, one of Kaiser Permanente’s top doctors and executives, told staff members last month that the company found 20 million masks to purchase the previous week and that Kaiser’s chief executive had authorized a payment for it that was more than usual because of rising mask prices.

“But the feds actually seized that shipment before we were able to acquire it,” Mr. Ellison told staff members, according to a recording of the call reviewed by The Times. “And that’s their right. They’re helping to put together for the nation, but just it goes to show you how challenging procurement can be.”

When asked by The Times days later about the call, a Kaiser spokesman said company officials were unable to find evidence that the government took Kaiser’s masks. The spokesman said the initial information came from a middleman.

Yet in an internal notice to some workers on Monday, Kaiser Permanente said that Cardinal Health, its main supplier of isolation gowns, notified the health system “that FEMA is intervening and taking the U.S. supply from the Cardinal China manufacturer. We will still receive a small resupply under a protected allocation. However, there are very few other sources for isolation gowns.” As a result, Kaiser told workers to conserve the gowns they had.

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