The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) sold or gave away the state’s stockpile of ventilators and mobile hospital units, which had been created by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
The reason: the last recession, which hollowed out state finances in Schwarzenegger’s final years in office, meant Brown had to cut spending.
But once the state’s finances recovered, the emergency supplies were never restored.
The Times reported that Gov. Schwarzenegger, noting the national outrage at the mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, and concerned about a SARS outbreak in Asia, spent $200 on medical disaster preparedness.
The equipment included “three 200-bed mobile hospitals,” plus “50 million N95 respirators” and “2,400 portable ventilators.” The cost of maintaining the emergency stockpile was less than $6 million per year, the Times noted.
However, that funding was cut — and despite queries by state legislators, it was never restored.
The Times added (original links):
Now, many California hospitals are being forced to ration their inadequate supply of N95 masks, and hospitals are rushing to rent ventilators in anticipation of a severe shortage as COVID-19 caseloads grow.
At its height, the state’s stockpile held more than 50 million N95 respirators, but without continued funding, that supply dwindled. Some were used during California’s wildfires and not replaced, and others went past their expiration date. As the coronavirus arrived in California, that supply was down to 21 million.
What exactly happened to the 2,400 ventilators isn’t clear. Several dealers who buy and sell used medical equipment said they recall many of California’s ventilators ended up being resold by hospitals and nursing homes to other dealers, who then likely shipped them out of the United States.
President Trump reiterated in his daily press conference at the White House that while the federal government was eager to help, states had been responsible for lacking necessary supplies.
He complimented Gov. Gavin Newsom, Brown’s successor, on managing California’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Brown joked during the 2016 presidential election that if Trump won, California would have to build a wall to separate itself from the rest of the country.
Author: Joel B. Pollak