Investigation: We are 'unprepared' for pandemic

Department of Homeland Security mismanages equipment, medications

SAN ANTONIO – Are we prepared for a pandemic? A recent federal investigation says "no." As KSAT news has reported this week, millions of dollars spent by the Department of Homeland Security on medications and equipment has gone to waste.

A local infectious disease expert is breaking down how this could affect us all. 

The task, set in 2006, was to have the Department of Homeland Security use $47 million to prepare for any future pandemics. The result? A mess of expired medications and lost products. 

A recent federal investigation by the Inspector General's Office reveals that mismanagement of the purchased items has left our country truly unprepared for a nationwide medical emergency. 

"I think the most troubling part was the overall lack of organization. Emergency preparedness is very difficult. You have to try and predict what emergencies you might be dealing with," says Dr. Jason Bowling with the UT Health Science Center.

He says the Department of Homeland Security bought too much of certain products. It couldn't explain why money was spent on 350,000 white coverall suits, and 16 million surgical masks. Plus, 4,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and a large percentage of anti-viral medications purchased have already expired.

With no inventory system set up, the report shows that many products bought are now lost or unaccounted for.

"I don't know how you lose $29 million worth of supplies and not know how to find it!" Dr. Bowling says.

So how does that affect you? Well, the wasted money came out of your pocket.

"Certainly it's a concern because it's our tax dollars and so if we're not using them efficiently, we're obviously going to have to spend more," Bowling says. 

He says San Antonio hospitals are prepared for a local emergency and have plenty of supplies to go around. The problem is if there is a nationwide pandemic, they would need help from the federal government.

The Department of Homeland Security is now working on the 11 suggestions made by the Inspector General's Office to fix the failing pandemic preparedness program. 


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