PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) has called for transparency from Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding the redeployment of ventilators from hospitals that currently do not need them to those with the highest need as they fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we truly are one state as the governor talks about, then we need to prioritize the needs of upstate as well as downstate,” she said Friday.

'GRAVE CONCERN'

Stefanik spoke to members of the media hours after Cuomo announced that he would sign an executive order which would allow the state to redistribute ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), using the National Guard to transport the supplies.

Either the equipment will be returned to the hospital from which it was taken or the hospital will be reimbursed for it in the future, according to the Governor’s Office.

“This is of grave concern to the hospitals in my district,” Stefanik said.

She said she had received a staggering amount of outreach since the announcement came out.

The congresswoman argued that the state needs to consider rural hospitals' already limited bed space and supplies and that she represents the highest percentage of seniors — the group most vulnerable to COVID-19 — in any New York State congressional district.

"I’ve already been in contact and the governor's office said they will take into consideration the number of seniors in my district."

QUESTIONS

Due to limited testing supplies, Stefanik continued, upstate does not have the most up-to-date and accurate data on the number of positive cases.

"Why not? Because when the state is making decisions about where the testing supply goes, the counties in my district, despite my advocacy and their advocacy, are getting the short end of stick."

She said she heard from hospital CEOs who were hopeful earlier this week when they had to submit exact numbers of PPE and ventilators to the state.

“The hope was that people in New York State and the Governor’s Office would understand the need in our region and the fear was that our supplies and ventilators could be shifted downstate.

So our worst fears are being realized and I think you’ll see members of the upstate New York delegation, both Democrats and Republicans, work to push back on this.”

Certain questions need to be answered, Stefanik said, including how the redeployment decisions are made, how the state will get an accurate snapshot of community spread with a lack of testing supplies in certain counties, how will the state guarantee upstate will have access to ventilators and whether there is a bare minimum of supplies that each hospital is going to be allowed to keep on hand.

"What I don’t want to happen is the ventilators to be sent downstate and then all of a sudden we have a need with a surge of positive cases and ... not having the supplies that we need to deal with the health crisis.”

NONESSENTIAL TRAVEL

Stefanik acknowledge the importance of seasonal homeowners to the property base, but again emphasized the need to limit nonessential travel.

“If the governor wants to limit ventilator numbers, do they even have that accurate up-to-date number of the number of downstaters who have come up to their second homes in upstate?” she added.

Assemblyman Dan Stec (R-Queensbury) expressed a similar concern.

“Some of this could have been mitigated earlier had they said, 'Stop moving around, if you’re in New York City, stay in New York City ... stay local so you don’t spread it.'

That should have been a louder part of the message.”

Those who come into the area may end up consuming its medical resources, Stec said.

“I don’t discount there’s a crisis in NYC, I get it and we should be pulling out all the stops to get the ventilators.”

But rather than “emptying out” the North Country, Cuomo may need to push harder on neighboring states or others throughout the country to send ventilators, Stec argued.

He was also frustrated at the state apparently not taking advantage of people and small businesses offering to make ventilators.

Even if they are not hospital-grade, they may help in a pinch, he argued, and would be better than bag valve masks which must be pumped by hand.

Stec said he has heard from hospitals that the state may take up to 20 percent of all the ventilators they have.

HEALTH, SAFETY

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Plattsburgh) said he has been in constant communication with hospitals in his district, and that it was his understanding that the state planned to form a task force to work with hospitals and come up with a plan.

"They say that they’re going to work with and partner with this task force to see what it is that’s expected here.”

Jones acknowledged the area’s limited supply of ventilators, and expressed concern for seniors and other residents.

“Of course, I don’t want to see us losing any resources that we have here in the North Country because … health and safety of our residents is of number one concern.

We don’t want to lose any of our valuable resources that could possibly help or save lives of our North Country residents.”

WORKING HARD, SMART

State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said in a statement that she was concerned about the region being without when its need is greatest.

She has been in contact with hospital administrators, who she said were working hard and smart to be prepared.

"We haven't seen specifics about the governor's plan. When we do, I'll want to know what our hospitals think.

New York City and Long Island hospitals are in dire need of help right now.

As manufacturing of ventilators ramps up and more become available, that would replenish us. But, again, our hospitals will know best what's possible."

Email Cara Chapman:

cchapman@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @PPR_carachapman

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