Last week, a bill that would create a 90-day supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all health care and essential workers in the state was reintroduced to the legislature. Ironically, the very Senator who had voted down the program several years ago, is the author trying to start it up again. Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), a doctor, was one of the primary lawmakers pushing to remove PPE stockpiles in 2011, now is calling for California to build them up – more expensively too.
Senate Bill 275 by Senator Pan, would also extend the mandatory 90-day stockpile law to all health care providers in California and would require that at least 25% of all PPE would be made in the state. If state agencies, hospitals or other places that need to meet the requirement don’t follow SB 275 then they could be fined as much as $25,000 per violation.
SB 275 would ultimately cost the state around $50 million a year.
Senator Pan updated and amended SB 275, which had been initially introduced last year as a psychologist license update bill, because of how ill-prepared California initially was to the coronavirus pandemic and how some supplies, such as N95 face masks, are still struggling to reach some health care workers in California.
“Having emergency supplies at hand allows you to quickly respond to the infection,” said Senator Pan of his bill. “When you don’t have the supplies, what we learned is that unfortunately caused a lot of problems. It put health care workers at risk, it put their patients at risk.”
“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,” added the Senator in a press release.
However, Senator Pan’s position on required supplies was a major flip-flop from nine years ago.
In 2006, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger created a stockpile of pandemic supplies including rapidly-deployable mobile hospitals, 21,000 additional patient beds, 2,400 portable ventilators, and 50 million N95 respirators to prevent further mass outbreaks following the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the bird flu outbreak in 2005. However, despite the low price tag of $5.8 million, the legislature decided to scrap the plan in 2011 to fight the 2011 California budget crisis.
One of the leading Assemblymen for the cuts was then Assemblyman Pan, who was very vocal on cutting the pandemic supplies despite indications of future outbreaks.
“When you’re stretched, prevention and readiness, future needs – unfortunately, that’s what gets cut,” said Senator Pan in an interview.
Despite the hypocritical view of the bill’s author, SB 275 has had indications of bipartisan support.
“Many GOP lawmakers want to bring that emergency preparedness that Governor Schwarzenegger tried to install almost 15 years ago, Democrats want additional protections, and both sides want to protect health care workers and increase California manufacturing,” noted California health care analyst Patricia Quinn. “It’s a hard bill to argue against because it has high aims and it would eliminate the initial high costs California had to pay for masks and other supplies here early on.
It also might eliminate problems next time around like the Chinese mask deal that was a huge headache for the state.”
SB 275 is expected to be heard in the Senate soon.