Constant Supplies Needed To Match Global PPE Demand
With more than 37 million coronavirus cases, countries have increased their efforts to curb the pandemic. Businesses are urged to use disinfectants, masks, and hand sanitizers to control the spread of the disease.
But, with the steady need for PPE equipment comes a constant surge in product demand. Based on recent WHO estimates, the global healthcare section still needs an additional 89 million masks, 1.6 million goggles, and 76 million gloves on a monthly basis to manage the robust coronavirus epidemic.
However, to supply these figures and meet the constantly increasing demand, the healthcare supply industry needs to enhance the PPE production rate by at least 40%.
PPE Worldwide Supply Chain and Demand
Image Link: https://unsplash.com/photos/xX0NVbJy8a8
In March 2020, WHO announced a shortage of PPE equipment, which left front-line COVID workers dangerously ill-prepared. The panic buying, misuse, and hoarding were putting peoples’ lives at risk.
Although the first panic buying “spree” may have subsided, the pandemic is far from over. There is a persistent demand for PPE products across various industries. People have also turned to PPE online training to reduce their risk of infections and maintain their equipment. Therefore the need to purchase substantial amounts of disinfectants, hand sanitizers, and surgical masks remain
Why Are There PPE Shortages?
According to clinical reports from December 2020, the National Institutes of Health has identified four key shortage contributors:
– Domestic demand shocks
– Hospital limited budgets
– Interference of the global supply chain
– Federal government failure
- Domestic Demand Shocks
One of the key reasons for the lack of PPE is the demand shock. National surveys showed that by the end of March, almost 1/3 of hospitals had run out of face masks. At the same time, 13% were left without plastic face shields. Consumers were also buying massive supplies of PPE, causing a surge of resales, hoarding, and panic buying. This led to a sharp decline in PPE inventories all across the U.S. and the globe.
- Hospital Limited Budgets
Probably one of the most impactful factors for the lack of PPE is the budgeting models used by most hospitals around the world. The budgeting model is often viewed as a weakness in the structure of the healthcare system.
The OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has requested that front-line workers be offered free PPE equipment. Incorporating such a model could become an ideal budgeting strategy. It can align with the workers’ interests and help facilitate their effectiveness. Unfortunately, the motive for short-term profit among employers remains. This indicates most healthcare industries are seeking options that will profit their business.
The World Health Organization has also weighed in on poor budgeting techniques used by hospitals and clinical facilities. The WHO advises that strategic purchases are needed, along with budgeting based on performance and key statistics from previous quarters. Furthermore, understanding the budget cycle steps should become a priority among hospitals. Another recommendation made is for a transition from line-item budgets toward program-based budgets to be considered.
- Interference of the Global Supply Chain
Experts are estimating a long-term impact on the current supply chain. Many countries were unable to amplify PPE production and satisfy the enormous demands. Also, with the closing of the borders, it created an even bigger rift for off-shore PPE producers.
The rate of coronavirus cases reported quickly started to elevate again in October 2020, and now, many countries are facing a second wave of infection. This is leading to countries closing their borders again and implementing strict lockdown procedures. When stricter regulations are needed, we may see further interference in the worldwide supply chain – these may be more restrictive than current obstacles faced by PPE producers.
- Federal Government Failure
Given the severity of the pandemic, governments should have taken more coordinated domestic distribution and production measures. For instance, the government in the U.S. anticipated PPE shortages back in 2006. When experts analyzed the lack of preparedness for a possible pandemic, the U.S. didn’t have the stockpile necessary to cope with such a massive infection.
A publication on the CATO Institute website explains that the federal government has been dealing with pandemics for over a century already – even so, they were underprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world. The same publication advises that the congress of the U.S. should work alongside the president in an effort to reform specific federal agencies. In particular, agencies that were responsible for creating such an ineffective approach to the viral pandemic should be addressed.
What Steps Need To Be Taken?
A research paper in the Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection explains that there are multiple steps that need to be taken now. These steps are critical to assuring the PPE shortage can be overcome and to deliver essential protective equipment to healthcare workers, as well as the general public.
According to this paper, some of the most important steps that need to be taken include:
- The country needs to reduce the dependence it currently places on personal protective equipment imported from abroad. Instead, we need to look at ways to produce this equipment locally while also ensuring the techniques used are cost-effective.
- The current profit motive behind the sale of PPE needs to be eliminated. When profit is the primary motive, the equipment reaches for prices that people in low-income households may not be able to afford.
- The government needs to increase its own capacity to distribute existing stockpiles and to provide better maintenance of PPE held in reserve. Regulations need to be developed to help monitor and control the distribution of current stockpiles. This can help to reduce shortages that are currently being faced.
There is a need for corrective actions and transformative changes within the healthcare sector. Front-line workers need a complete set of tools that will help them manage the pandemic. One practical option would be to provide hospitals with adequate PPE inventories.
By getting rid of the profit motive and supplying them with free PPE, it is possible to boost the stockpiles. Another option would be to expand the domestic production rate and decrease the need to depend on the worldwide supply chain. Whatever option countries go for, it’s crucial to address these issues and solve the problem.