Experts warn that the current shortages in the health care supply chain can quickly graduate from being a medical nuisance to a life-and-death situation nationwide. Medical equipment relies on a global supply chain that has been hit hard by the pandemic. Items such as crutches, parts used in ventilators and sleep apnea machines, and other necessities, as well as certain medications, are in shorty supply.
According to Axios, we witnessed a critical shortage in ventilators and personal protective equipment during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic until the situation stabilized. Today we are seeing a repeat of these tie-ups globally causing a potentially dangerous long wait time for basic medical items.
“We’re experiencing a vast array of global challenges that, layered together, create bottlenecks in a system not designed for such demands,” read an October report from Premier, a giant medical supply firm. Premier predicts that the shortages will last well into 2022.
Kaiser Health News reports that hospitals in Utah, South Carolina, Kentucky and elsewhere are asking for gently used crutches, walkers, canes, and other medical equipment. In Utah, residents are dropping off these items in 11 locations as part of a donation program called LeanOn Utah to fill the gap of supply chain shortages.
Axios reports that other medical supply items such as blood tubes and Foley catheters are scarce at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Raw materials to make heart valves are inadequate as well as chips used in ventilators and sleep apnea machines, says The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“I am definitely working with some of the biggest names out there and really asking, begging, pleading that we should prioritize medical devices over another cell phone, another electric car, another cloud-connected refrigerator,” said Mick Farrell, CEO of ResMed, a company that manufactures medical devices including ventilators and sleep apnea machines.
Medical supplies and equipment are not the only health care items facing supply challenges. Hundreds of drugs and medications are scarce at pharmacies including the anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab given to both COVID-19 and chemotherapy patients, says CBS News. The Food and Drug Administration currently lists 109 drugs that are in short supply across the country. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, three of the top five shortages are antibiotics and drugs used for chemotherapy and heart conditions.
Premier CEO Mike Alkire told Axios: “We need to begin to think about how we manufacture more of these products domestically and have less reliance overseas.”
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