R.I. emergency medicine doctor tells congressional committee to double down on sourcing PPE

PROVIDENCE – A Brown University medical expert last week told members of a congressional subcommittee that increased manufacturing and distribution of personal protective equipment is essential for the safety of essential and health care workers.

Dr. Megan Ranney, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University and an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital, testified during a virtual briefing on May 21. She was on a panel that included health care workers, emergency responders, grocery store employees and other workers who have kept essential services running during the COVID-19 crisis.

Panel members spoke in front of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, formed earlier this year out of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Ranney, along with other doctors across the country, helped form Get Us PPE as the health crisis began to unfold about three months ago. The group finds and delivers personal protective equipment to health care workers, including medical students, nursing home employees and delivery workers.

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Despite the efforts from such groups, authorities must do their part to secure gear for workers, Ranney said.

“We need a more stable and predictable solution than what we are able to provide as volunteers and donors. … We must ramp up manufacturing, increase the stockpile for front-line workers … and ensure that this protective equipment is distributed equitably to everyone who needs it,” she told the committee.

Although Rhode Island Hospital had begun to stockpile protective equipment in January, when COVID-19 had not yet appeared in New England, the hospital was low on supplies by mid-March, when cases began to mount in Rhode Island, Ranney said.

“The supply chain had completely dried up,” she testified. “Overseas manufacturing had been diverted to other hot spots like Italy. We internally had not ramped up our U.S. production on time. I have innumerable colleagues across the country who have been infected – some have died.”

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