Experts warn that America’s PPE shortage could last years without strategic plan

By August 27, 2020 No Comments

Healthcare facilities expect to deal with equipment and supply shortages throughout 2021, especially as flu season approaches. “There’s going to be lots of shortages we haven’t even thought about,” says one expert.

Shortages of personal protective equipment and medical supplies could persist for years without strategic government intervention, officials from healthcare and manufacturing industries have said. According to The Guardian.

Officials said logistical challenges continue seven months after the coronavirus reached the United States, as the flu season approaches and as some state emergency management agencies prepare for a fall surge in Covid-19 cases.

Although disarray is not as widespread as it was this spring, hospitals said rolling shortages of supplies range from specialized beds to disposable isolation gowns to thermometers.

Healthcare facilities expect to deal with equipment and supply shortages throughout 2021, especially as flu season approaches.

Trade associations representing manufacturers said convincing customers to shift to American suppliers had been difficult.

“I also have industry that’s working only at 10-20% capacity, who can make PPE in our own backyard, but have no orders.” said Kim Glas, CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations, whose members make reusable cloth gowns. Manufacturers in her organization have made “hundreds of millions of products”, but without long-term government contracts, many are apprehensive to invest in equipment to drive economics of scale, and eventually needed to lower prices.

“If there continues to be an upward trajectory of Covid-19 cases, not just in the US but globally, you can see those supply chains breaking down again,” Glas said. “It is a healthcare security issue.”

“I am very concerned about long-term PPE [personal protective equipment] shortages for the foreseeable future,” said Dr Susan R Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association.

“There’s no question the situation is better than it was a couple of months ago,” said Bailey. “We have not seen evidence of a long-term strategic plan for the manufacture, acquisition and distribution of PPE,” from the government, said Bailey. “The supply chain needs to be strengthened dramatically, and we need less dependence on foreign goods to manufacture our own PPE in the US.”

Federal government efforts to address the supply chain have largely floundered. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in charge of the Covid-19 response, told congressional interviewers in June it had “no involvement” in distributing PPE to hotspots.

Shortages have pushed buyers to look directly for manufacturers, often through a swamp of companies which have sprung up overnight. Now distributors are being called upon not just by their traditional customers – hospitals and long-term care homes – but by nearly every segment of society. First responders, schools, clinics and even food businesses are all buying medical equipment now.

“There’s going to be lots of other shortages we haven’t even thought about,” said one expert. THE GUARDIAN

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