UC System Directs Staff to Stop Donating Medical Supplies to Hospitals

OAKLAND, California. University of California Office of the President (UCOP) at 1111 Frankline Ave., in Oakland, Calif., on September 5, 2012. Various locations and people throughout the building. Photo by Robert Durell

University of California Office of the President headquarters in Oakland, CA (Photo: UCOP)

By Lauren Bray, edhat staff

The University of California sent out a mass email last week directing university staff to stop donating medical supplies to local hospitals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On Friday afternoon, an email from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) labeled urgent stated many UC campuses were receiving multiple requests, typically from local hospitals, to donate designated types of personal protective equipment (PPE) in anticipation of growing demands in the healthcare industry. 

PPE includes gloves, masks, goggles, bodysuits and any other materials used to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. Hospitals and healthcare facilities on a global scale have reported shortages of PPE as they struggle to treat the increasing number of COVID-19 patients. 

“Please do not donate PPE as we need to be maintaining all our PPE stock and inventory for internal UC purposes. I realize everyone wants to help during this time of crises, but the ability for campuses to get many types of PPE is going to become increasingly difficult, and almost impossible in some cases (N-95s), very soon,” according to the email written by Brent Cooley, UCOP Deputy Director of Environment Health & Safety.

Cooley went on to state hospitals will have access and priority to the State and Federal PPE stockpile due to processes in place for hospitals to request items through the County and State Office of Emergency Services. 

However, hospitals and healthcare systems worldwide are reporting massive shortages of PPE as federal and local officials continue to bid on the dwindling level of supplies. 

A community health center in St. Paul, Minnesota is considering shutting down due to lack of face masks, doctors in St. Louis are treating COVID-19 patients with loose-fitting surgical masks opposed to tight respirator masks, and an emergency room in Los Angeles was given a box of expired masks where the elastic bands snapped upon use, reports the New York Times.

There are now public callouts from healthcare systems asking for donations. On Sunday, Cottage Healthcare posted a notice asking for donated medical supplies such as medical goggles, face shields, protective masks, and gowns. 

“The global demand has overwhelmed the limited supplies being manufactured by some of the typical supply chain. Based on market supply availability and projected usage, Cottage anticipates supply challenges for protective equipment…” wrote Cottage Health. 

Ventura County sent out a similar plea on Monday asking for PPE donations to support health care providers, facilities, and first responders combating COVID-19.

“We are facing an unprecedented public health emergency, and the increasing demands of our health care system is contributing to shortages in personal protective supplies,” said Ventura County Executive Officer Mike Powers. “Protecting and supporting the needs of our health care workers and first responders is critical to safeguarding the health of our community during this crisis. We are urging the community to make donations of personal protective gear so that we can protect the health and vitality of our frontline first responders.”

The email to UC employees stated staff needs to better manage their current internal supply of PPE and will need to gather, store, and secure these items as there have been reports of theft. 

Jenn Caselle, a Marine Ecologist at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), took to Twitter with her reaction to the UCOP email. She stated her lab donated gloves, face shields, goggles and Tyvek suits to the hospital and that it felt good to do something right now. 

“UC Office of Pres. memo telling us NOT to donate PPE, to inventory it and lock it down as we shut our labs… Seriously? [Because] locking up face shields & full Tyvek suits in an [Ecology Lab] is more [important] than our local care providers?” wrote Caselle.

Another UCSB employee who asked to remain anonymous confirmed their lab had already spearheaded a donation of PPE materials to local hospitals before this email was sent and will continue to do so. 

In response to edhat’s inquiries, UCOP Communications Manager Stett Holbrook confirmed they are not in a position to donate PPE as their campus emergency operations centers are working hard to tap into supplies for equipment per standard emergency protocols.

“As supplies become in more demand, UC wants to ensure the protection of University personnel while enabling our organization to sustain and meet what is likely to be a long-term public health need. As such, we are not in a position to donate PPE at this time, given the demands on our organization, and in fact, have been grateful to those organization that have donated PPE to us,” said Holbrook in an email to edhat.

Additionally, Holbrook stated as the UC inventory is established, there may be a need for campuses to re-distribute PPE and other supplies throughout their own organizations including student health, first responders, animal care staff, COVID-19 research efforts, and other essential operations.

However, hospital administrators continue to beg for donations as the global demand overwhelms the supply. 

“On behalf of all the healthcare workers on the frontlines of fighting this virus, I ask for the community’s support. We need you now more than ever to stand with us in safeguarding the health of this community,” wrote Ron Werft, President and CEO of Cottage Health, when asking for medical supply donations. 


Written by lauren

Lauren is the Publisher of edhat.com. She enjoys short walks on the beach, interesting facts about bees, and any kind of homemade cookie.

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  1. People (and institutions) show their true faces in times of crisis. Not at all surprised the university considers its operations more important than those of the public health system – just as it’s willing to saddle millions of Americans with debt for exorbitant tuition and fees. The universities have been taking more than they give for decades.

  2. WOW. So what does the UC need these supplies for? The closed laboratories and student health where all the students are gone? The reasoning doesn’t make sense. There is no telling when Universities will even re-open and hospitals need these supplies NOW.

  3. What a complete disgrace. I know I’m only one vote, but I will NEVER vote in any shape or manner for any bill/legislation that benefits the UC system. Students drowning in debt who were allowed to major in subjects that have absolutely no value. On top of that………..”The Office of the Chief Investment Officer of the Regents currently manages a portfolio of investments totaling approximately $120 billion, which includes retirement, endowment, and cash assets.”

  4. Our healthcare system is just as disgusting, if not more, in its financial endeavors as any university. Cottage Hospital, for all its non-profit status, has more money than the pope. Why didn’t they plan for this? Now we all need to donate supplies, in addition to paying grossly inflated bills, to this monster corporation to keep ourselves healthy?!?? Really?

  5. The Benevolent UC System and crime boss Janet Napolitano (this is from a couple years ago, but shows you that they are not looking out for the taxpayer): Mercury News, San Jose….. A scathing state audit Tuesday accused University of California President Janet Napolitano’s office of hiding tens of millions of dollars in reserves — even from its own board of regents — and creating a secret spending plan, while also padding the salaries and benefits of her staff.
    The eye-popping report comes as UC plans to hike tuition this fall and has already prompted one UC regent, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, to publicly request a reversal of that increase.
    State Auditor Elaine Howle found that UC’s central office had accumulated more than $175 million in reserves that it failed to disclose, including money it collects from campuses, for a series of systemwide initiatives from boosting the university’s carbon footprint to bolstering its cybersecurity.

  6. Just because an entity is designated a “Non-Profit” doesn’t mean they don’t make LOTS of money and most of them pay their top people handsome salaries. Talk to an office worker at any S.B. County non-profit & they will tell you all is very well, especially with their paycheck.

  7. This was a bad move in so many ways for the UC system. Bad for our health care workers, bad for the current situation we are in, and really bad publicity for UC. How selfish and shortsighted can UC be? As this eases, which it will, they will be replenished and they can request that of the hospitals when they donate them. There will be a lot of them being produced eventually. As one person already pointed out, why do they need them now when classes are all online? DUH.

  8. I agree with “… Cottage Hospital, for all its non-profit status, has more money than the pope. Why didn’t they plan for this? …”
    They charged $10,000+ for a stay in the hospital from 8PM to 10AM the next morning for observation. They defiantly should have used more of their “Profits” to stockpile emergency supplies.

  9. Thank you for this story! Cottage Hospital May well be rich, as a previous poster wrote, other California hospitals may also be, but that does not mean that they are not working in the public interest and NEED immediately these supplies that UC wants to and is hoarding. Shame on the UC president and the Regents!

  10. The idea is gone with the corporate quest for profit. They outsource everything to the cheapest vendor which means now we can’t find suppliers on short notice and the vendors are used to selling to the highest bidder. They have no obligation (patriotic or moral) to help us when we have exploited them for decades. We are reaping what we sewed.

  11. @Waprothero, I see your point. However, we would have to balance the necessity of the UC’s research and schooling opposed to local hospitals need right now. A lot of the UC operations are not as high of a priority as local healthcare workers safety. If the UC system was planning to organize PPE inventory and determine what they need and what they can donate, they could have explained this in their response, but chose not to.

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