GOP senator calls for investigation into 'mismanagement' of strategic ventilators

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) is requesting an investigation into reports of "mismanagement" of ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile amid growing demand for the equipment as the coronavirus spreads across the country.

Gardner sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General, noting that the stockpile is, under federal law, supposed to allow the federal government to support states in a public health emergency.

"Troubling reports indicate that potential contracting delays and maintenance failures are contributing to a low supply of operational ventilators during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic at a time when our country desperately needs them," Gardner wrote.

Gardner is asking for the HHS watchdog to investigate if there was a "lapse in contracts that led to a lapse in maintaining" the ventilators in the national stockpile. If so, he wants to know how long the equipment went without maintenance and if regulatory or changes from Congress are needed.

Gardner, who faces a difficult reelection race this fall, also wants to know if there was "mismanagement that led to a shortage of working ventilators or other critical medical supplies or equipment."

Gardner's letter comes as officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the federal government has fewer than 10,000 ventilators in its emergency stockpile and demand will soon exceed capacity.

FEMA said that there are only 9,500 ventilators in the national stockpile, and only an additional 3,200 will arrive by April 13.

President Trump recently promised that the U.S. would manufacture or procure an additional 100,000 ventilators, but most of those will not be available until late June at the earliest, according to the House report.

The New York Times reported that thousands of ventilators in the country's stockpile are inoperable because a contract with a company tasked with maintaining the equipment lapsed last year. The contract was not given to another company until January.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Friday warned that his city would run out of its supply ventilators by Monday or Tuesday. His comments came after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) warned that the state would run out of its stockpile of ventilators within the next six days if it didn't receive further assistance.