According to a report from The Olean Times Herald, starting in early April, the administration of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo began spending hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase thousands of ventilators, mobile X-ray machines, and “BiPAP” breathing-assistance devices. However, as is now being reported, most of this equipment was never used.
At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in New York, Cuomo warned that the state may need 40,000 ventilators and up to 150,000 hospital beds. However, these projections have far exceeded what turned out to be the state’s actual needs.
Although the inventory of the state’s medical stockpiles is arguably a matter of public record, Cuomo’s office declined to provide details on how much medical and personal protective equipment are now in its reserves; much of it is now being stored at large industrial warehouses in Guilderland; Oriskany, Oneida County; and a facility near New York City.
The office did, however, provide a breakdown of its expenditures during the pandemic, including a $278 million purchase of more than 8,800 ventilators; $94.4 million for 1,179 mobile X-ray machines; and $60.7 million for more than 17,000 “oxygen concentrators,” a category the administration said encompasses the BiPAPs.
On April 7, Cuomo appeared on MSNBC to report that New York had suffered a pandemic-high 800 deaths in the previous 24 hours. He also said that hospitals were “over capacity” and faced a critical shortage of the ventilators used to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients.
Cuomo also said that, under the state’s plan, BiPAPs were to be fitted with a special part that would make them function like a ventilator. The state scrambled to acquire those machines as Cuomo cited health experts’ worst-case scenarios for hospitalizations and patients who may need intubation. On April 2, he announced the state had 750 BiPAPs in reserve and had purchased another 3,000 from a Pittsburgh-based medical supply company.
Six days later, Cuomo said a Florida company, Mercury Medical, had donated another 2,400 BiPAP machines that were being flown to New York free of charge by airline JetBlue.
However, despite the governor’s words in April that the BiPAP machines were being “used” to treat patients, they were never put to use.