Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essential for every healthcare service provider as it protects them potentially infectious patients and materials, toxic medications and other dangerous substances used when providing healthcare.
Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus disease 2019, U.S healthcare systems have reported considerable PPE shortages which have compelled them to compromise on their ability to keep healthcare personnel safe while treating tens of thousands of infected patients. Gloves, medical protective clothing, face masks, N95 respirators, air-purifying respirators, and eye protection are central to transmission-based preventive measures. Initial negligence and delays in COVID-19 testing have only increased the consumption of PPEs, leading to PPE shortages.
To meet the acute shortage of PPE and medical supplies, many new Personal Protective Equipment companies and bulk PPE suppliers have stepped into the healthcare market in 2020. However, there are a few personal protective equipment companies that are considering this shortage as a way of earning more profits and hence, are supplying PPEs at higher costs, making it difficult for small or medium-sized healthcare facilities to afford the cost. On the contrary, there a few bulk PPE suppliers who are supplying PPE kits in bulk, but compromising the quality of the products. All these situations have led to a shortage of PPE and medical supplies in healthcare facilities.
Causes of Extreme PPE Shortages in the US
- Currently, US-based PPE production is limited, and over 70% of respiratory protection gears come from China. A sudden global demand and reduced production in China during early 2020 has caused great stress for healthcare facilities across the US. They have reported estimated delays of 3 to 6 months for requested PPE supplies.
- Meanwhile, with the emergence of new PPE suppliers in the PPE supply chain, some healthcare systems have turned to these unvetted PPE suppliers for Personal Protective Equipment and tools without fully evaluating the supplier’s quality, making them more vulnerable to the infection.
- Moreover, the routine US PPE supply chain was designed to fulfill demands while focusing on cost and efficiency. This supply chain was only capable of handling normal demands. With the spike in the demand for PPE kit, the US supply chain crashed as it could not meet an unexpected increase that occurred due to the global pandemic.
- The Department of Health and Human Services’ Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and state stockpiles provide additional PPE during emergencies. However, requesting PPE supplies from SNS involves serious discussions among local, state, and federal officials maintaining the established protocols. Normally, PPE in the SNS can be delivered to the requesting locations within 24 to 36 hours after the request approval.
- Supplying adequate PPE to the requesting locations amid COVID-19 outbreak has been challenging for the SNS because of the low overall stock of PPEs to meet demands in a severe health crisis, and lack of transparency regarding PPE and other inventory in the SNS which has hampered its credibility.
Measures to Mitigate PPE Shortages
Due to dire shortages of PPE amid the global pandemic, PPE suppliers are finding it difficult to meet increased demands for immediate PPE supplies. Hence, it is becoming difficult for healthcare facilities to access PPE and hence, they are switching to alternate ways to continue providing patient care.
Surge capacity refers to the ability of a healthcare facility to deal with an abrupt, unexpected increase in patient volume that would exceed their daily present capacity and cause several healthcare challenges. As of now, there are no reliable measurements that will help differentiate surge capacity from the present patient care capacity. Therefore, surge capacity is can be used as important framework to act in response to the increased PPE supplies shortages during the COVID-19. There are mainly three general strata that are used to elaborate surge capacity. These can also be used to prioritize measures to conserve supplies of personal protective equipment to ensure uninterrupted patient care.
- Conventional Capacity: These are measures for devising, monitoring, and preserving PPEs which should be implemented by healthcare personnel in their general infection prevention and control plans.
- Contingency Capacity: These are measures that may be implemented temporarily during expected PPE supply shortages.
- Crisis Capacity: These measures do not comply with U.S standards of healthcare, however, they may be taken into consideration in times of known PPE supply shortages.
Here are some other ways by which PPE shortages can be mitigated significantly:
- Development of a robust and optimized PPE supply chain strategy for healthcare personnel, personal protective equipment companies, distributors, and government agencies.
- Keeping stockpiles of a minimum 3.5 billion N95 respirators and 500 million surgical masks at federal levels and keep additional stock at state and local levels.
- Ensuring transparency and timely reporting on stock, depletion, requisitions, and allocation rules and regulations.
- Ensuring the seamless flow of PPE supplies from federal and state-level stockpiles to healthcare systems.
- Providing better visibility to the PPE supply chain to ensure higher levels of accuracy, real-time inventory data held in locations.
- Development of order orchestration rules by HCP, infection prevention teams, and medical supply chain management. These rules can act as the road map for allocating different sources of stock.
- Hospital administrators should consider re-examining PPE suppliers’ or medical supply distributor contracts for service-level clauses for increased demand surges. The distributors should also demonstrate supply preparedness plans and geographic diversity in their PPE production base.
- Leveraging the provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide financial support for large-scale PPE supply chains, and automate production lines to meet the enormous demands for PPE supplies.
- Besides developing optimized strategies for PPE supplies, HCP and facilities along with their healthcare coalitions, local and state health departments, and local and state partners, should also work together to provide training to HCP on the correct use of PPEs, including proper donning and doffing procedures before they carry out patience care treatment.
Co-Defend employs the best strategies for the PPE supply chain so that it is always prepared during periods of low, stressed, or absent PPE supplies. Co-Defend implements contingency and then crisis capacity measures, that bypass traditional capacity measures, in their plans and strategies to offer a continuum of options for PPE use amid the global pandemic.
Co-Defend is one of the trusted bulk PPE suppliers in America, that supplies only FDA-approved PPEs to help people fight against the COVID19. It connects people directly with the most authorized bulk PPE suppliers who serve them with high-quality personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.