FRANKLIN LAKES, NJ (Bergen County) — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Friday announced new bipartisan legislation, the Medical and Health Stockpile Accountability Act, to strengthen the Strategic National Stockpile and ensure the U.S. is better prepared for future crises and pandemics. This legislation will combat equipment shortages and provide near real-time tracking of medical and health supply inventories in New Jersey and nationwide — for supplies that frontline workers desperately need.
This will create a critical new national system to help prevent shortages like those experienced throughout the pandemic, from COVID-19 rapid tests now, to the mask and ventilator shortages from the beginning of the pandemic.
Gottheimer made this announcement today at BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company), an American company headquartered in Franklin Lakes, NJ, which creates and manufactures medical technology including vaccine syringes and COVID-19 tests.
The bipartisan Medical and Health Stockpile Accountability Act will strengthen the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and create resiliency in our supply chain by:
- Establishing a New National Automated Supply Chain Tracking System: Establishing an automated supply-chain tracking application within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that provides near real-time insight into the amount of critical medical and health supplies available in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and in the medical and health inventories of local and private entities like hospitals, manufacturers, and distributors, and time estimates for when inventories may be replenished.
- Creating Clear Guidelines for Data Use & Sharing: Establishing clear guidelines and practices for data access and use of the new supply-chain tracking application, including consulting with public and private partners to develop national data collecting and reporting standards, creating visibility into inventory by standardizing data, and ensuring clear and efficient mechanisms for health care entities to report data in an emergency.
- Eliminating Inventory Reporting Errors: Eliminating manual reporting burden and errors by automating data feeds from health care entities to the new supply-chain tracking application.
- Testing the System Annually to Stay Prepared: Conducting an annual exercise to test the effectiveness of the application and to report any deficiencies.
- Helping State and Local Health Care Providers: Establishing an HHS program to assist state, local, and private health care entities, such as community hospitals, that do not have an automated vendor management system in developing such a system.
- Safeguarding Private Data: Instituting robust safeguards to protect confidential and proprietary information and to ensure that federal data collection is used for monitoring and dynamic allocation, not for reallocating inventory from hospitals or other organizations, advantaging any institution over another, or undermining the competitive marketplace.
“It was completely shocking to discover at the beginning of the pandemic — when New Jersey was hit so hard and our hospitals were in desperate need of masks and ventilators — that we had no way of knowing the quantity, location, or production of these supplies. Like others, I sat on the phone all night long with distributors in Europe and Asia trying to get shipments of masks and ventilators. I begged my colleagues in other states to see if their hospitals had anything they could spare — an extra ventilator or a few thousand masks and gowns,” Gottheimer said. “Three years later, that problem still exists. We just don’t have a handle on the exact quantities of critical medical supplies and drugs that are on U.S. soil at any given time. And this lack of visibility is hurting us again, right now, as we work to ramp up testing and higher-grade mask use, like N-95s, to help curb the spread of the omicron variant. This critical legislation will ensure that in future crises, we are much better prepared.”
Gottheimer was joined by Tom Polen, BD Chairman, CEO, & President; Don Ecker, the Executive Director of Supply Chain at Holy Name Medical Center; and Bergen County Commissioner Tom Sullivan.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, BD continues to play a leading role in the global response,” Polen said. “We remain focused on providing technologies across the full spectrum of what’s needed around the world – from devices that help us understand the body’s immune response to COVID-19 to providing tens of millions of PCR and rapid COVID tests to devices that are critical to patients in ICUs and injection devices to administer more than 2 billion COVID vaccines around the globe. As we all continue in this fight against COVID-19, we appreciate Congressman Gottheimer’s commitment to protecting the health of all citizens through the important work he is doing to strengthen the country’s ability to respond to this and future pandemics.”
“Holy Name was at the epicenter of the pandemic in March 2020 and the supply chain availability was such a challenge. Getting PPP for our frontline workers was something I spent everyday thinking about and one of the challenges we kept running into is where is the availability going to come from — we had no visibility into what was out there in other parts of the country,” Ecker said. “The Medical and Health Stockpile Accountability Act will help us get visibility into what is available and where, which is something we really need to be ready for the next crisis to keep our community and our staff safe.”
“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deficiencies that existed within our medical supply chain became glaringly obvious. These shortfalls strained local hospitals and put our frontline workers, who often lacked the supplies necessary to ensure the safety of themselves and others, at risk. While our resolve got us through those immensely difficult days, it was clear that changes were needed,” Sullivan said. “Today, I was proud to stand with Congressman Josh Gottheimer in support of crucial legislation that will ensure our supply chains are never again overwhelmed, and are instead prepared for the unexpected.
“This bipartisan bill will enable for the first time, real-time data on the entire supply chain for critical medical supplies needed during emergencies—from manufacturing, to distribution, to state and national stockpiles, to hospital inventory. This information will allow healthcare providers, manufacturers, distributors and the government to pinpoint the intersection of supply and demand, more effectively secure needed products, and better identify areas of vulnerability to prevent shortfalls in supply,” said Michael J. Alkire, the President and CEO of Premier Inc., an alliance of 4,400 U.S. hospitals and health systems and more than 225,000 health providers and organizations.
Armed with information from this inventory monitoring infrastructure created by Gottheimer’s Medical and Health Stockpile Accountability Act, decision-makers like hospitals, manufacturers, distributors, and federal agencies will be better able to plan and allocate supplies to prevent shortfalls and hoarding, move product from the Strategic National Stockpile and other inventories to points of care, or ramp up production.
Gottheimer also wrote to the President earlier this week and requested an increase in rapid testing supplies, by continuing to partner with private sector leaders and by utilizing the full power of the federal government, including the Defense Production Act. Additionally, Gottheimer requested expanded access to newly developed therapeutic drugs to get them directly to hospitals. It is vital that we keep supplies of these critical goods — masks, tests, therapeutics — flowing so that we can finally recover from the pandemic.
This bipartisan legislation builds on Gottheimer’s comprehensive agenda to address the COVID-driven supply chain crisis, by advancing federal action aimed at ending supply chain disruptions, shortages, and associated price increases.