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'It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states bidding': Cuomo attacks US healthcare as coronavirus deaths rise

'The healthcare system is a chain. It breaks anywhere, it breaks everywhere. That has to be our mentality'

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 31 March 2020 22:23 BST
Governor Cuomo describes states bidding against each other for medical equipment

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described the process of bidding on ventilators against other states - and the federal government - as a sort of dystopian eBay during a press conference on Tuesday.

Mr Cuomo’s explanation of the process that states are going through to obtain medical equipment was part of a longer press conference during which he discussed how New York City - the current epicentre of US coronavirus cases - is handling the growing number of confirmed infections and deaths.

“Look at the bizarre situation we’ve wound up in. Every state does its own purchasing, so New York is purchasing, California is purchasing, Illinois is purchasing. We’re all trying to buy the same commodity, literally the same exact item, so you have 50 states competing to buy the same item,” he said. “We all wind up bidding up each other and competing against each other.”

He likened the process to bidding on items on eBay.

“It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states bidding on a ventilator. And you see the bid go up cause California bid, Illinois bid, Florida bid, New York bid, California rebids, that’s literally what we’re doing,” he said. “I mean, how inefficient.”

As of Tuesday, New York state has 75,795 cases of coronavirus and 1,550 deaths. Mr Cuomo’s brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, is among those infected. Chris Cuomo will be continuing his broadcasts from isolation in his basement.

The governor said he wasn’t sure when New York’s numbers of infected would peak, but that the total was “still going up.”

“When is the apex? That is the $65,000 question. We have literally five models that we look at. It’s true to say almost no two are the same. The range on the apex is somewhere between seven to 21 days,” Mr Cuomo said.

During the presser, Andrew Cuomo laid out his plans to deal with the virus, including centralizing the state’s health system, merging the private and public health entities to help hospitals share staff.

Mr Cuomo said he nearly ‘didn’t make it out’ of a meeting with angry heads of private hospitals because they were angry at the plan.

“I don’t care which link breaks in the chain, the chain is still broken. It doesn’t matter which hospital, which link, any link, breaks, the chain breaks,” he said. “The healthcare system is a chain. It breaks anywhere, it breaks everywhere. That has to be our mentality.”

Mr Cuomo said he wanted hospitals with surplus staff or supplies to share with hospitals that were in need, regardless of their ownership. As a result, he is pulling staff from upstate hospitals to help in hospitals in New York City where the need is greater.

The governor also intends to disperse patients from more concentrated areas to hospitals that have fewer patients and more room to house them than the crowded New York City facilities. When necessary, the governor said he’d also use field hospitals to help ease the burden on healthcare facilities.

Mr Cuomo also called for out of state assistance from areas that could spare the help.

“It’s unity. Let’s help each other.New York needs help now. This is going to be a rolling wave across the country; New York then Detroit then New Orleans then California,” he said. “If we were smart as a nation, come help us in New York, get the experience and the training here, then let’s all go help the next place, then the next place, then the next place. That would be a smart way of doing this.”

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