WXXI AM News

Cuomo orders upstate hospitals to give spare ventilators to overwhelmed downstate health centers

Apr 3, 2020

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On the highest single-day increase in coronavirus deaths and new hospitalizations in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is mandating that upstate hospitals share their spare ventilators with downstate hospitals that are overwhelmed with dealing with COVID-19 patients and rapidly running out of the machines. 

The governor said he understands why hospitals in parts of New York where there are fewer cases of coronavirus want to hold on to their spare ventilators for when cases spike.

But he said the market for ventilators has “collapsed,” and he’s now mandating in an executive order that the hospitals give up the machines, for now, to downstate hospitals. 

“Those institutions will either get their ventilator back, or they will be reimbursed and paid for their ventilator,” Cuomo said. “So they can buy a new ventilator.”  

Cuomo said the National Guard will be coming to pick up the spare ventilators, which he believes number in the hundreds.  

He said a new concern has emerged: The virus is increasing on Long Island, which has fewer hospitals than the New York City metropolitan area. 

Local elected leaders expressed concerns about the order.

Rep. Joe Morelle, D-Irondequoit, said Cuomo's plan can work if different cities have different COVID-19 peaks. But he added that you can't say with certainty how many ventilators a city like Rochester will need on any given day.

During an appearance on WXXI's "Connections with Evan Dawson," Morelle said he plans to make that clear to the governor.

"My job -- and I take this very seriously -- is to be concerned for people in the 25th Congressional district, which is essentially Monroe County," he said. "We gotta make sure that, as the peak arrives here, that we have adequate supply here."

Morelle's main concern regarding ventilators is with the slow response from President Donald Trump.

"This is complicated," he said. "So the White House really needs to get on this, engage our supply chain, and start producing these products."

In a statement, Rep. Tom Reed opposed Cuomo's plan.

"Cases and deaths are increasing today in western New York. Multiple intubations are occurring regularly," said Reed, R-Corning. "We have to protect all New Yorkers, including upstate. The governor said he was sending the National Guard to take our ventilators and PPE by force. That doesn't sound like a request or working together. That sounds like force. Once we lose these ventilators they are never coming back."

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said in a statement that the county doesn't have "excess capacity" to share supplies.

"The health and safety of the residents of Monroe County is, and will always be, my number one priority," Bello said. "During this public health crisis, I am in daily contact with both of our hospital systems to ensure we are properly planning to build the capacity to meet medical needs here. While it's reasonable to share resources across communities when available, the reality is that Monroe County's positive cases, hospitalizations, and ventilator usage increase daily. We do not have excess capacity to send supplies out of the region."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz aired his concerns about the governor's directive as well. Upstate leaders worry that if they give up ventilators now, they won't get them back when the surge hits in May.