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Order of disinfectant wipes redirected by FEMA, Colorado nursing home says

The facility has had 26 residents with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests and five residents with probable COVID-19. Twenty residents have died from the disease.

BRUSH, Colo — Eben Ezer Lutheran Care Center in Brush said an order for personal protective equipment (PPE) was redirected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

CEO Shelly Griffith said the facility received an email from the vendor last month stating a $750 order of disinfectant wipes was redirected by FEMA and they have yet to receive any of the other items in the order.  

"We placed an order on April 17 for some gowns, some face shields, and some disinfectant wipes. On April 24 we were notified that the disinfectant wipes had been reallocated by FEMA," said Griffith. "It was extremely frustrating. At that time we were in need of that shipment to arrive at that scheduled date."

Griffith said the order totaled $15,000 and included 2,000 gowns and 500 face masks – though it's unclear if those items were redirected as well.

They have still not received a refund for the shipment that never came, Griffith said, though they are working to get one. 

The biggest challenge for Eben Ezer has been securing enough personal protective equipment to keep staff and residents safe, according to Griffith.

"People working in senior living are compassionate, caring individuals. They are doing the very best that they can with the tools that they have available to them," Griffith said. "In a small community like ours, these are not just residents that we are providing care to. These are members of our family."

In a statement emailed to 9NEWS Wednesday morning, a FEMA spokesperson denies that FEMA redirected any supplies. 

In-part, the statement read, "We want to make it clear that FEMA did not take any supplies bound for Eben Ezer. We are working to find out what happened and to help in any way we can. FEMA Region VIII has been in contact with both Senator Gardner’s office and the care center, as well as the company who made the untrue claim, to learn first-hand what happened. We take this very seriously, and appreciated the Senator’s inquiry and the information from the care center."

You can read the full statement from FEMA below.

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When the shipment didn't arrive, Griffith said they were forced to ask local churches and community groups to help sew gowns to keep the healthcare workers safe.

Though Griffith said they now have enough PPE, she still wonders what happened to the wipes, masks and gowns that could have kept her staff and residents safe when they needed them most.

"We are actively working with Senator (Cory) Gardner’s office to determine if FEMA was the entity that actually redirected this shipment," Griffith said.

The facility has had at least 26 residents with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 tests and at least five residents with probable COVID-19. It said 20 residents have died from the disease. The facility also has at least 19 staff with lab-confirmed positive tests and at least 14 probable staff cases. New data distributed by CDPHE will be released Wednesday, but the facility confirms the number of deaths has gone up to 20.  

Below is the full statement sent to 9NEWS from FEMA:

On behalf of FEMA Region VIII, and for attribution by a FEMA spokesperson, we want to make it clear that FEMA did not take any supplies bound for Eben Ezer. We are working to find out what happened and to help in any way we can.

FEMA Region VIII has been in contact with both Senator Gardner’s office and the care center, as well as the company who made the untrue claim, to learn first-hand what happened. We take this very seriously, and appreciated the Senator’s inquiry and the information from the care center.

FEMA is not seizing or taking personal protective equipment (PPE) from state or local governments, hospitals, or anyone lawfully engaged in acquiring or distributing PPE, but unfortunately, there are a few different situations that have led to incorrect assumptions of FEMA seizing or taking supplies:

  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) has assembled a COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging task force to identify cases of price gouging and may alert FEMA to some shipments and stockpiles of PPE. Under Defense Production Act authorities, FEMA may then compel a price gouger to sell PPE in its control to FEMA at prevailing market prices, not gouging prices.

  • The perception that FEMA is “out-bidding” states and others for supplies is incorrect. Due the use of priority ratings in the Defense Production Act to reallocate critical resources, federal government requirements are put ahead of other orders so we can best assist areas most in need of supplies. As FEMA processes orders through the supply chain we maintain close coordination with states to identify potential bidding conflicts. If a bidding conflict occurs, we work closely with the state or tribe to resolve it in a way that best serves their needs.

  • As part of the current agreement with distributors for Project Airbridge, 50 percent of the supplies on each international flight are directed by the distributors to customers in areas with the most critical needs for those supplies based on HHS and CDC data.  If a company decides to cancel on a state contract in favor of a federal one, we work with the company and the state to resolve the matter in a way that best serves the people.

We have not yet been able to determine yet what happened in this case, but can assure you that FEMA did not redirect any supplies.

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