Watchdog report finds severe shortages and significant challenges to hospitals’ coronavirus responses

The findings by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services describe a dire situation for front-line doctors and medical staff as cases mount in hospitals.

The assessment, the first internal government look at the response, was based on interviews from March 23-27 with administrators from more than 300 hospitals across 46 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.

The report provides an accounting of the shortages faced by hospitals nationwide in trying to obtain equipment for staff and patients. It also details the challenges hospitals faced in trying to keep up with testing demands and the inconsistent guidance that caused confusion.

The lack of testing, according to the report, led to patients staying in beds longer, staff using personal protective equipment that they might not have needed to use, and staff exposing themselves to patients with the virus without knowing.

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“An administrator at another hospital noted that the sooner the hospital knows whether patients are negative, the faster it can move them to a lower level of care that consumes fewer resources,” the report reads. “As one administrator put it, ‘sitting with 60 patients with presumed positives in our hospital isn’t healthy for anybody.'”

Hospitals also reported that they “received conflicting guidance from different government and medical authorities” on issues like criteria for testing, determining which elective procedures to delay, use of personal protection equipment, and getting supplies from the national stockpile.

The report also highlights the shortages of ventilators. “Hospitals anticipated that ventilator shortages would pose difficult decisions about ethical allocation and liability, although at the time of our survey no hospital reported limiting ventilator use,” the report reads.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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