Cuomo’s ventilator plan sparks blowback

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ALBANY, NY— Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a plan to temporarily shift medical resources. Some people don’t like the idea.

On April 3, Cuomo said that the state would move ventilators from hospitals that have an excess to hospitals that are running low. Under Cuomo’s proposal, the state’s National Guard would be used to transport the machines from one medical facility to another, with the promise that those ventilators or other ventilators would be transferred to hospitals as the need arises.

According to the Sullivan County Department of Health, Catskill Regional Medical Center has a total of 21 ventilators, with nine of them being used by patients. Under Cuomo’s proposal, two of those ventilators would be moved downstate.

The plan drew comment from U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado, state Senator Jen Metzger and other elected officials who represent upstate New York communities.

“Health care access in rural communities has long been under strain, and we know the apex of cases in upstate is around the corner. We stand ready to help our fellow New Yorkers, but moving needed ventilators from our region now would be devastating and counter intuitive to all data on the spread of COVID-19.”

“I’m not going to let people die because we didn’t redistribute ventilators,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo’s plan calls for hospitals with an excess of unused ventilators to lend 20 percent of those breathing machines to hospitals that need them immediately. The state would later either return the ventilators or buy them from the hospitals of origin.

At press time, Cuomo’s plan appears to have not gone into effect. The state has received 1,000 ventilators from Chinese billionaires Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai who founded the e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba. The state of Oregon has also agreed to send 140 ventilators in return for reciprocity should COVID-19 spike in that state in the future.

Sullivan County Public Health Director Nancy McGraw said her department does not expect that the governor will seek to move equipment from Catskill Regional Medical Center, but they are watching developments closely. 

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