Trump accuses hospitals of hoarding ventilators as the US faces shortages

  • President Donald Trump accused hospitals of hoarding ventilators on Sunday, though he did not provide evidence to back up his claims. 
  • Ventilators are a vital tool for medical facilities treating patients with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. 
  • He also told reporters they should look into the disappearance of masks from New York hospitals. 
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President Donald Trump accused hospitals of hoarding ventilators and said these devices needed to be released.

Trump made the remarks during a White House press briefing on Sunday night. 

"We have some healthcare workers, some hospitals … hoarding equipment including ventilators," he said. "We have to release those ventilators — especially hospitals that are never going to use them."

Trump did not specify which hospitals were hoarding ventilators nor did he provide evidence to back up his claims.

He also told reporters they should look into the disappearance of masks from New York hospitals since he claimed usage had risen from 20,000 per week to up to 300,000.

"Where are the masks going, are they going out the backdoor?" Trump asked rhetorically. 

New York has been hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak in the US. As of Sunday night, the state has confirmed over 59,600 coronavirus cases and more than 965 deaths.

Ventilators are a vital tool for medical facilities trying to save the lives of people with COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. But experts have warned that America faces a shortage of critical supplies in the months ahead as the number of cases continues to grow.

A February report from the Centre for Health Security at Johns Hopkins found that the US had about 170,000 ventilators, with 160,000 ventilators ready for use in hospitals along with about 8,900 held in a national reserve.

One expert estimated that about 1 million Americans may need ventilator treatment during the coronavirus outbreak, straining the country's resources even if all those cases do not overlap. Shortages of other medical gear like masks have already started to affect US hospitals.

On Wednesday, Trump issued an executive order to prevent the hoarding and price gouging of essential medical equipment, including ventilators, masks, and Chloroquine, an experimental drug currently in clinical trials for its potential use in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that the state needs 30,000 more ventilators to address the influx of patients due to the virus. 

But Trump has disputed whether hospitals need a major increase in medical equipment to battle the virus. Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox News last week that he didn't think areas needed 30,000 to 40,000 more ventilators to treat patients.

"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," Trump told Hannity. "You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they'll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they're saying, 'Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'"

Trump invoked the Defense Production Act — a Korean War-era national security legislation that lets the president direct industries to manufacture essentials during a national crisis — on Friday, compelling General Motors to help the country produce ventilators.

On Friday, Trump attacked GM on Twitter after The New York Times reported that a deal with the company to produce ventilators had collapsed. 

"As usual with 'this' General Motors, things just never seem to work out," he tweeted. "They said they were going to give us 40,000 much-needed Ventilators, 'very quickly'. Now they are saying it will only be 6,000, in late April, and they want top dollar."

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