By Nandita Bose and Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump on Sunday accused hospitals of hoarding respirators that are in short supply across the United States as the coronavirus spreads, adding that any medical facility not using the devices will need to release them.
Trump, accused by his critics of trying to deflect responsibility for his handling of the crisis, cited no evidence to back up his charge that hospitals were hoarding respirators. It was also unclear what specific institutions he was referring to.
“There are some healthcare workers, some hospitals … that hoard equipment including respirators,” Trump said at the White House, after a meeting with company executives including the U.S. Medical Group.
“We have to release those respirators – especially hospitals that will never use them.”
His comments are known two days after Trump invoked emergency powers to demand that General Motors Co build the much-needed respirators for coronavirus patients after accusing the largest US automaker of “wasting time” during the negotiations.
Trump sounded more positive about GM on Sunday, saying the auto giant was “working very hard.”
The Trump administration has been under pressure to increase the production of respirators, which are essential to save the lives of patients who develop complications from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated in an interview with CNN that the pandemic could cause between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the United States.
(Additional report by Jan Wolfe and David Shepardson; translated in Spanish by Gabriel Burin)