[B]ack in August of this year, a scathing report was issued by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) regarding the inventory and budgetary accountability of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Titled “DHS Has Not Effectively Managed Pandemic Personal Protective Equipment and Antiviral Medical Countermeasures”, the report reveals the poor management within the DHS for pandemic materials and supplies such as Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) and items needed for Medical Countermeasures (MCM).
In 2006, according to the report, DHS requested and received $47 Million to plan, train, and equip personnel in advance of a nationwide epidemic such as influenza—or in our current state, Ebola virus (EBOV).
According to the report:
DHS did not adequately conduct a needs assessment prior to purchasing pandemic preparedness supplies and then did not effectively manage its stockpile of pandemic personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures. Specifically, it did not have clear and documented methodologies to determine the types and quantities of personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures it purchased for workforce protection. The Department also did not develop and implement stockpile replenishment plans, sufficient inventory controls to monitor stockpiles, adequate contract oversight processes, or ensure compliance with Department guidelines. As a result, the Department has no assurance it has sufficient personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures for a pandemic response. In addition, we identified concerns related to the oversight of antibiotic medical countermeasures. [Emphasis added]
Current stockpiled of PPEs and respirator masks have a shelf-life as indicated by the manufacturer, and according to the OIG, many if not all of these supplies have already expired or will expire by early 2015:
In fact, the Department’s own assessment is that the entire PPE stockpile will not be usable after 2015. During site visits, we identified the following:
The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) stock of pandemic PPE includes about 200,000 respirators that are beyond the 5-year manufacturer’s guaranteed usability. TSA is conducting sampling of its PPE to identify any specific problems with its usability. However, TSA officials said they will maintain existing stock and may use it for “employee comfort.”
The Department’s NCR and component pandemic PPE stockpiles include expired hand sanitizer. Out of 4,982 bottles, 4,184 (84 percent) are expired, some by up to 4 years.
It isn’t only PPEs and masks and sanitizers that fail the audit, but medication inventories (MCMs) have been woefully mismanaged.
The Department has not provided any documentation demonstrating how the current stockpile of approximately 300,000 courses aligns with its pandemic needs. Since FY 2009, OHA [Office of Health Affairs] has purchased additional antiviral MCMs without reevaluating the stockpile quantity for reasonableness. OHA conducted periodic data calls to components to identify mission-critical employees. However, OHA did not document how the information was used to ensure its stockpile of antiviral MCM would be sufficient to meet its needs. […]. DHS acquired most of its stockpile of antiviral MCM in FY 2009, but did not implement an acquisition management plan that included a strategy for replenishment. Having an acquisition management plan would ensure its stockpile continued to meet its needs. As a result, about 81 percent of its stockpile will expire by the end of 2015 (shown in table 1). DHS recently spent about $760,000 on an additional purchase of 37,000 antiviral MCM courses, yet had still not demonstrated how that purchase met its needs. [Emphasis added]
As taxpayers, we expect the government agencies tasked with assuring and guarding our nation’s health are doing so wisely and judiciously. When I worked in healthcare back at Indiana University, one of my jobs as Chief Clinical Technician was to assure that all sample medications were current, available, and safe and that all medical equipment I used (I ran CT and ultrasound diagnostics) were kept sanitized and in top working condition. Why has there been no such oversight with regard to the equipment purchased with our tax dollars? The very idea that the DHS keeps outdated PPEs and MCMs in order to maintain ‘comfort’ for their employees is ludicrous! How is there comfort in believing that a PPE or respirator mask with an expired filter is going to keep me from contracting and then spreading a pandemic pathogen?
By 2015, all of the DHS stockpiles of Tamiflu will be expired and half of the Relenza stock will have done so. While I’m not a big fan of these antivirals because of side-effects and ineffectual remediation, I am appalled that the DHS has not already replenished the majority of these stocks. Where has the money gone? Who is minding the store?
Oh yeah. We have an Ebola Czar now. That will fix it all.
Read the entire report here.