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Schumer accuses VA leadership of letting virus spread, after PPE shortage in Buffalo, Canandaigua

Syracuse VA Medical Center Facebook

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is pressing the Department of Veterans Affairs to send more personal protective equipment to VA facilities, especially in New York, to fight against COVID-19. This follows an Inspector General report in March that said 33 out of 54 facilities that were studied across the country, had inadequate supplies and equipment. 

VA medical centers in Buffalo and Canandaigua, were both featured in the report. Buffalo reported a shortage of masks and gloves while Canandaigua needed N95 masks. Schumer said it took VA leadership 10 days to issue masks to them.

“And that let the virus spread unimpeded for a week," Schumer said. "And we all know when you let this virus spread, it creates real, real trouble. You can’t let it spread. This was just so wrong.”

Schumer is calling on the VA to disclose if all of the VA facilities in New York have sufficient supplies and to stock the facilities that need more PPE.

“We’re the global epicenter," Schumer said. "The VA needs to pay attention to us first and foremost. It's baffling that the Veterans Health Administration does not have a strategy in place to address the shortages of PPE in New York.”

Schumer also wants to know how the VA will bridge shortages of PPE in the future and identify any barriers.

A spokesman for the Syracuse VA Medical Center said they have sufficient PPE and never had a shortage. A small number of employees at the Syracuse VA have tested positive for the coronavirus, but they have been or are being treated at home in quarantine. The Medical Center is currently treating several Covid patients.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.