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Lawmakers blast executive order to pull ventilators, PPE from Upstate hospitals NYC area

Upstate New York lawmakers ripped Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to bring ventilators and other personal protective equipment to the downstate area.

That executive order was signed on Friday.

“Ventilators and PPE are the last lines of defense in a fight that we cannot afford to lose. The governor’s Executive Order to move life-saving equipment to downstate hospitals seems to be a reasonable premise executed with reckless overreach,” Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, Assemblyman Brian Mankteloww, and Senator Patty Ritchie said in a joint-statement. “We all see the tragic impacts of the COVID-19 virus and recognize the urgency in New York City. If help is needed, it should be provided. But this is a life-and-death effort that demands precision and a collaborative approach, not a unilateral order that activates the national guard as if we were in a state of martial law.”

New York has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Cuomo said during a press conference on Friday that more people are going to die soon if help doesn’t arrive.

The Cuomo administration will move equipment identified as ‘spare’, or that which hospitals in Upstate New York are not using right now to the New York City area, which has been devastated by COVID-19.

Lawmakers are concerned that it’s stretching an already-thinned healthcare system in rural parts of the state.

“This is a step too far,” Senator Pam Helming said after the order was announced. “Many of our rural upstate county health departments have not even received an adequate supply of test kits. At this time, we do not have the complete picture and cannot predict with certainty what the real needs will be in upstate New York as COVID-19 spreads.”

Helming pointed to the lackluster testing and lack of hospital resources in her district, which includes Ontario, Cayuga, Wayne, Seneca, and Tompkins counties.

“To take ventilators and ship them downstate when we don’t even know how many local people are truly sick is irresponsible,” Helming added. “We need to do everything we can to save the lives of all people, across the State of New York. Every hospital must have the tools they need to serve their own patients. To go into hospitals and private businesses and seize medical equipment puts everyone at risk and sets an incredibly dangerous precedent. The State of New York needs to work with all our hospitals to get the resources to the right places, while ensuring they have what they need to take care of their own patients. Sending in the National Guard to collect ventilators from upstate hospitals that are already short, and bring them downstate is just wrong on every level.”

Assemblyman Brian Kolb agreed. “The governor’s plan to deploy the National Guard to seize ventilators from our communities so they can be redistributed elsewhere would compromise our regional health system’s capacity to effectively manage a surge in COVID-19 cases. It’s extreme, it’s reckless and I’m joining the chorus of elected officials from our region who oppose this,” he said.