Cuomo announced during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing the New York National Guard would be deployed to pick up ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which includes surgical masks, from hospitals and private companies that are not using them.
“I’m not going to get into a situation where we’re running out of ventilators, and people are dying because there are no ventilators, but there are hospitals in other parts of the state that have ventilators that they’re not using,” he said.
These hospitals or companies would either receive the ventilators back once the need has passed in New York’s hot spots, “or they will be reimbursed and paid for their ventilator so they can buy a new ventilator,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo Senior Advisor Rich Azzopardi released a statement further clarifying the plan later Friday.
“While the pandemic is primarily in downstate New York now – it is projected to peak and reduce in downstate and then increase in upstate. It is essential that we all help each other and the Governor is asking upstate hospitals to loan 20 percent of their unused ventilators to struggling downstate hospitals, according to Azzopardi.
Cuomo would ask downstate hospitals “for similar help” when the wave hit upstate communities, Azzopardi added.
The bi-partisan group issued a statement saying they were “gravely concerned.”
“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,” according to the statement.
The group included Congressman Antonio Delgado, state Sens. George Amedore and Jen Metzger, and the county executives for Dutchess, Ulster and Orange.
Orange County is already dealing with a flood of COVID-19 cases, with more than 2,000 confirmed as of Sunday, and 25 deaths as of county Executive Neuhaus’ last update on Thursday.
However, no hospitals in either Rockland or Orange counties would have their ventilators taken, according to state Sen. James Skoufis.
The Governor’s Office committed to getting ventilators from farther upstate, according to Skoufis, whose district includes eastern Orange and northern Rockland counties.
A spokeswoman for Nuvance Health, which owns Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, Putnam Hospital in Carmel and Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, said none of the hospitals had been told to hand over ventilators at this time.
Westchester Medical Center Health Network, which owns eight hospitals in the mid-Hudson Valley and Westchester, did not reply to queries about the issue prior to press time.
There was no indication from the Governor’ Office whether ventilators would be redistributed from Westchester County, or whether it would receive ventilators as a COVID-19 hotspot. The county had 13,723 cumulative confirmed cases as of Saturday, according to the state Department of Health, more than the Bronx or Manhattan, though both boroughs have far larger populations.
During the Friday briefing announcing the Executive Order to redistribute ventilators, Cuomo referred to eight hospitals as “hotspots.” The hospitals were all in New York City or Long Island, but it was unclear if these were the hospitals that would be receiving the ventilators.
The Governor may well be seeking ventilators from areas north of the Hudson Valley – Auburn Community Hospital, about a half-hour west of Syracuse, was told to relinquish 10-20 percent of their unused PPE and ventilators, according to The Citizen.