U.S. Attorney Warns Hospitals Against Hoarding, Price Gouging


U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant
  • U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant

As Tennessee enters into what experts believe is the peak of the coronavirus surge in hospitals here, U.S. Attorney Michael Dunavant warned West Tennessee hospital leaders his office is prioritizing prosecutions on equipment hoarding and price gouging.

In a Thursday letter, Dunavant warned hospital executives that he will aggressively enforce such practices. Further, Dunavant called hoarding and price gouging "morally repugnant."

Such supplies include N-95 face masks, ventilators, surgical gloves, and hydroxychloroquine, a drug touted by President Donald Trump as a coronavirus treatment.   However, the drug has never been proven to effectively treat the virus.

"In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our office is prioritizing the deterrence, investigation, and prosecution of wrongdoing related to the COVID-19 pandemic — including those engaged in hoarding and/or price-gouging with regard to critical medical supplies," Dunavant said in a letter Thursday. "These practices are not only morally repugnant in light of the pandemic we are facing, but also, if left unchecked, can inhibit hospitals, physicians and other health care professionals, governmental agencies, and the public from fully implementing measures designed to save lives and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus."

The list of "scarce" materials (including hydroxychloroquine) came from the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) by Trump executive order. Hoarding or raising prices on these 15 categories of health supplies will trigger "both criminal prohibitions and civil enforcement remedies" that Dunavant said his office will "aggressively enforce."

These categories currently include:

• N-95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators

• Other Filtering Facepiece Respirators (e.g., those designated as N99, N100,
R95, R99, R100, or P95, P99, P100)

• Elastomeric, air-purifying respirators and appropriate particulate

• Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR)

• Portable Ventilators

• Chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine HCl

• Sterilization services for certain medical devices and certain sterilizers

• Disinfecting devices and other sanitizing and disinfecting products suitable
for use in a clinical setting

• Medical gowns or apparel, e.g., surgical gowns or isolation gowns

• Personal protective equipment (PPE) coveralls, e.g., Tyvek Suits

• PPE face masks

• PPE surgical masks

• PPE face shields

• PPE gloves or surgical gloves

• Ventilators, anesthesia gas machines modified for use as ventilators, and
positive pressure breathing devices modified for use as ventilators, ventilator tubing connectors, and ventilator accessories.

Dunavant asked health-care officials here to help his office identify companies hoarding these materials or charging heightened prices on them. He also asked them to look out for anyone offering false treatment, tests, or vaccines.

To report coronavirus fraud, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDC) hotline (1-866- 720-5721) or send an email to the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

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