- Fox News’ Martha McCallum tried fruitlessly to grill a top Trump administration health official on whether the US has enough medical equipment like ventilators to treat a growing number of coronavirus patients.
- Other countries, such as Italy, have seen dire shortages of such equipment and have reportedly had to make tough decisions about which patients should be given which resources.
- McCallum asked the question to Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services, four different times, but was unable to extract a clear answer.
- At one point, Verma pivoted to praising President Donald Trump for taking “such bold and decisive action,” though his administration has been fiercely criticised for its handling of the pandemic.
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A top US health official dodged questions repeatedly from a Fox News host on Thursday over whether the country could see a shortage in medical equipment needed to treat severely ill coronavirus patients.
Fox News’ Martha McCallum tried four different times to get a straight answer out of Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But Verma pivoted away from the question each time.
After initially discussing the shortage of coronavirus tests, McCallum brought up a growing concern over the capacity of the US healthcare system to handle the volume of anticipated patients. Other coronavirus-stricken countries have had similar shortages, including Italy, where doctors have reportedly had to make tough decisions on which patients should get vital equipment, such as ventilators.
“In terms of actual equipment, we heard Bernie Sanders today for one coming out and saying there’s a major shortage of ICU units, we’ve heard that there’s a shortage of ventilators, even swabs and equipment for the actual tests. What’s being done about that?” McCallum asked Verma.
“Well that’s why we have an emergency prepared system. We’re used to dealing with disasters,” Verma replied, going on to describe the government’s response to hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Florida in 2017 – which was widely panned for its lack of compassion and ineptitude.
“So are you saying that we do have enough?” McCallum interrupted, to which Verma responded that health officials are “meeting with providers on a daily basis” and have “been putting out so much guidance.”
McCallum later tried to interrupt Verma again, though Verma continued talking over her.
Finally, before ending the nearly five-minute segment, McCallum tried one more time to get an answer.
“Before I let you go, I want to ask you one more time. Are there going to be people in this country who don’t get a ventilator if they need one?” McCallum said. “Can you reassure everyone tonight that there’s not a shortage of ventilators and ICU units?”
Verma’s response: “And that’s why the president has taken such bold and decisive action. We’re not waiting for this to get worse, we’re not waiting for this to be a crisis in our healthcare systems.”
Verma went on to tout several recent actions the Trump administration has taken, including implementing a travel ban on some parts of Europe and issuing travel advisories on the risks of boarding cruise ships.
But President Donald Trump has been fiercely criticised for downplaying the coronavirus crisis, and taking insufficient action to contain the pandemic. The US has reported 41 coronavirus deaths among more than 1,700 cases so far.
McCallum appeared to lose patience at Verma’s final response.
“OK. That’s not a direct answer to the question, but it sounds like a hope that there won’t be enough sick people and we won’t run out of ventilators because we have mitigated. And we certainly hope that’s the case,” she said.
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