The COVID-19 virus has laid bare the weaknesses of the US health care system. Supply chain technology; foreign sourcing of masks, gowns and critical equipment; rural hospital closings; lack of excess capacity through maximization of utilization for efficiency; shortages of masks, gowns and ventilators; and an over-reliance on high revenue elective procedures have all brought our health care system to its knees.

Health care systems rely on revenue from tests, scans, and elective surgeries to pay for ICUs, staff and ventilators. COVID-19 precautions and supply shortages have shut down this revenue stream.

This is happening as nurses, respiratory therapists, aides, techs, cleaning staff and doctors are re-using disposable equipment and risking their lives saving others while their colleagues and co-workers are laid off or sent home with furloughs or reduced pay.

States and Congress need to act quickly to provide emergency financial support to our health care systems. Without help, most institutions and health care workers will not survive the next 18 months.

In a war, don’t furlough the army.

Our governments need to act now.

James J. Hamilton Jr. (chief of surgery, University of Kansas Health System, St. Francis Campus), Topeka