COVID Creates Shortages of Range of U.S. Medical Supplies

September 20 (Reuters) – The mask and glove shortages that marked the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic have spilled over to a host of other needed items in medical facilities across the United States, tables of examination and cardiac defibrillators to crutches and IV poles.

It can now take up to five months to get certain types of examination tables, for example, up from three to six weeks before the pandemic, according to CME Corp, a medical equipment distributor that manages more than 2 million products.

“Right now, due to the stress in the supply chain caused by COVID, almost everything is being delayed,” said Cindy Juhas, director of strategy at CME. “A lot of the products we sell aren’t in a warehouse where you just call and tell to send them. You have to build it. “

But shortages of raw materials, including plastics, metals, glass and electronics, have hampered production.

In the case of the examination tables, the limited supply of electronic controllers, metal, and even the foam padding used to build them hampers producers, Juhas said.

The shortages – which coincide with a cut in hospital staff that forces some facilities to ration care in the latest increase in COVID cases – are part of a larger supply chain disruption that has plagued the flow of goods around the world as a result of the pandemic.

In many cases, US producers wait for parts or finished goods produced overseas that are delayed or waiting at stranded seaports. Last week, the Port of Los Angeles / Long Beach announced that a record 60 container ships were waiting offshore to unload their cargo.

The auto industry is perhaps the most visible example of how shortages are spreading through the economy and hitting consumers – with parking lots outside many factories filled with vehicles waiting for rare computer chips. .

Tight supplies mean higher prices, which has fueled fears of a sustained wave of inflation.

CME, based in Warwick, Rhode Island, is keeping a close watch on its top 100 suppliers and has seen prices for items from those companies rise 3% to 20% since the start of the year, according to the report. Some producers have increased their prices three times this year, Juhas said. Normally, price increases occur only once at the start of the year.

Many items in short supply have nothing to do with treating COVID. At CME, cardiac defibrillators that previously took two weeks to deliver now require three months.

“They normally have all the parts, so they put them together and put them on a truck,” she said. “But now they’re just waiting for coins. “

Even ordinary objects are hung. Portable plastic toilets – used in hospital rooms so patients don’t have to walk to the bathroom – are now out of stock for three to four months. “This is an item that you can usually order and get right away,” said Juhas, who said she expected the most supply issues to persist next year.

“And that’s with great luck,” she added, “and with COVID under control. “

Certainly, some backlogs are diminishing. At the onset of the pandemic, the sudden surge in demand for special fridges and freezers needed to store vaccines overwhelmed producers like Horizon Scientific Inc, a division of Standex International Corp (SXI.N), which operates a plant in Summerville. , South Carolina. The refrigerators are distributed by CME.

Brian Shaffer, director of marketing and business development for the company, said it takes three months to deliver its largest 30 cubic foot vaccine refrigerators – about double what the company would want. “We’re still struggling a bit because of the components that make them,” he said.

But delivery of smaller vaccine refrigerators, which are currently in demand for doctors’ offices and pharmacies, has returned to normal and can be shipped in five or 10 days.

Reporting by Timothy Aeppel in New York; Editing by Dan Burns and Andrea Ricci

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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