Senators Richard Pan and Connie Leyva Introduce Legislation to ensure a reliable supply of Personal Protective Equipment to Save Lives

June 18, 2020

Sacramento, CA – Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and State Senator representing the Sacramento region and Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) introduced SB 275 today to ensure California is ready on day one of a pandemic or other public health crises with a strong stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) so our healthcare and other essential workers that we depend on don’t go unprotected like they did during the current pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 crisis exposed a failure to adequately plan and prepare for a pandemic. Inadequate supplies of unexpired personal protective equipment (PPE) including respirators, surgical masks, and gowns left essential workers vulnerable to infection and death in hospitals and nursing homes,” said Dr. Richard Pan, pediatrician and State Senator representing the Sacramento region. “SB 275 prepares us for the next pandemic and make certain that the heroes that provide care for our sick, seniors and children will have the life-saving equipment they require so they can care for us and our loves ones.”

“I am proud to joint author SB 275 with Senator Pan, as well as work with SEIU California and other supporters, to make sure that California workers have the PPE they need.  Something California has clearly learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that we must remain proactive and prepared ahead of the next crisis—or even the next wave of the current pandemic.  It is critical that we empower doctors, nurses, housekeeping / environmental services employees and all other workers with the protective gear they need to do their jobs and keep themselves safe,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino).

Senate Bill 275, The Healthcare and Essential Worker Protection Act, is sponsored by the Service Employees International Union in California and will establish a PPE stockpile at the Department of Public Health. This bill will also require healthcare providers to maintain their own stockpile, and will establish in-state PPE manufacturing capability.

Specifically, the bill will:

  • Require the state to create a stockpile for use during an emergency, with enough PPE to provide a 90-day supply for all healthcare workers, as well as essential employees such as school employees, workers at detention facilities, childcare workers, in-home support providers, and other workers that are determined to be essential during an emergency;
  • Require healthcare providers such as hospitals and clinics to have their own three month supply of PPE for all their workers; and,
  • Require that 25% of the PPE be produced within California

“The first three months of the pandemic, California’s healthcare workers faced what we’d most feared: that we would become the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lisa Ott, Respiratory Therapist at HCA Riverside Community Hospital and a member of SEIU- United Healthcare.

In California, inadequate supplies of unexpired PPE such as respirators, surgical masks, and gowns left healthcare workers vulnerable to infection and death while working in hospitals and nursing homes, with some resorting to using homemade PPE like bandanas and trash bags. The lack of PPE also put patients—who come into contact with potentially exposed workers or through cross contamination through reuse of PPE—at risk.

By early June, more than 11,000 healthcare workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and 67 had died.

Because communities of color are overrepresented in essential jobs in nursing, nursing homes and janitorial fields, adequate supplies of PPE are needed to address the disproportionately higher death toll from COVID-19 in African American, Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities.

The many attempts to obtain PPE during the current crisis exposed major flaws in supply chains. By definition, a pandemic affects multiple parts of the world at once, which makes it especially difficult to procure needed supplies in the midst of an emergency. Overseas suppliers diverted PPE to their own countries’ needs or stopped production due to the effects of the pandemic. While some domestic suppliers quickly ramped up manufacturing, shortages have persisted and led to dramatic cost increases with some markups reaching over 6,000%. SB 275 will establish in-state PPE manufacturing capability to avoid price gouging when replenishing PPE supplies.

 

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