VA facilities generally did not have to tap into their emergency supplies of drugs and medical supplies because of the pandemic, an IG report says, but the pandemic did reveal issues with missing or expired supplies.
The report said the emergency cache program, established in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, provides for about a month’s worth of medicine and other supplies, including some personal protective equipment of the sort that was in high demand at the VA and elsewhere. “This is an area of particular concern” given that an IG review in 2018 had found that not all caches were ready to activate if needed because of expired or missing drugs, it said.
The new audit found that among 144 facilities, only nine activated their caches—one of them doing it twice—between last February and June and that seven of the activations “were for swabs that were mislabeled in the inventory system and could not be used for COVID-19 testing.”
It added that as of last July, all but one of the 144 caches “had at least one expired item or were missing at least one type of personal protective equipment” and that facility officials responsible for overseeing supply needs “were not always aware of the caches or the personal protective equipment they contain.”
It added: “The negative impact on cache readiness was mitigated because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance that allowed VA medical facilities to use expired personal protective equipment, such as surgical facemasks, that were not degraded. However, in the absence of such extraordinary action, expired personal protective equipment poses a serious risk to the cache’s mission readiness.”