COVID-19 Impact on PPE in the Healthcare Industry
The outbreak of COVID-19 is having a huge impact on the healthcare industry majorly the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). PPE includes gloves, mask, gown, goggles, N95 respirators, and hand sanitizer. Currently, it is the only preventive measure for the healthcare professional to prevent themselves from the spread of corona virus.
Many countries are involved in manufacturing of PPE products. Among which, China is the largest producer. According to the UNICEF, China produces approximately 50% of global surgical masks. Other countries include Taiwan which produces around 20% of global supply of face masks alone followed by India, Mexico, U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Korea, European countries, and others.
IMPACT ON DEMAND
Rising number of cases of corona virus is increasing the demand of PPE across the globe. According to the UNICEF, the demand for PPE products has surged 1000-2000 fold. Earlier in 2017-2019, the annual demand for coveralls and gowns by low and middle-income countries sourced by UNICEF did not exceed 50,000 units. However, the current demand for three months of these products is around 25 million. Similarly, for different types of facemasks, earlier the annual average procurement sourced by UNICEF was not more than 25000 units but now it has exceeded 55 million due to this target disease.
Furthermore, according to the WHO, there is a need of around 89 million masks for the COVID-19 response every month. While for gloves, the demand goes up to 76 million and for googles, it is around 1.6 million every month.
Moreover, the rising demand for N-95 masks has impacted the manufacturing of other PPE products. Companies have shifted their focus towards gloves and masks and have stopped manufacturing other products such as chemical resistant gloves, welding helmets, and industrial safety glasses.
IMPACT ON SUPPLY
Due to the rising demand of PPE, misuse, hoarding, and panic buying, there is a severe disruption in the supply chain of PPE. This has increased the risk for healthcare workers with limited access to PPE supplies during the care of COVID-19 patients. As the outbreak started in China, it has become the major cause of supply chain disruption.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, WHO has supplied PPE to the following countries:
- Western Pacific region: the Philippines, Vanuatu, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Mongolia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Kiribati, Fiji, and Cambodia.
- Southeast Asia region: Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Maldives, and Bhutan.
- Eastern Mediterranean region: Iran, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Pakistan, Somalia, Lebanon, Djibouti, and Afghanistan.
- Africa region: Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Madagascar, Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Angola, Togo, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Mauritania, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, and Mozambique
IMPACT ON PRICE
With rising demand, and shortage of supply, the price for the PPE products is increasing with an exponential rate. The supply chain disruption has become an opportunity for the suppliers to raise the price of PPE by a factor of 20. In addition, presence of market manipulators can also increase the time of delivery at the needful place. These manipulators can purchase the stock by bidding at higher price.
The price of surgical masks has risen 6 times, threefold for N95 respirators, and twofold for the gowns.
REASONS FOR THE BACKLOG OF PRODUCTS
- Raw materials: Due to the high demand for PPE products, there is a shortfall in raw materials used in manufacturing these products. Such as, due to high requirements in N95 masks, there is a shortage in nonwoven polypropylene.
- Machines: To meet the demand gap, there is a need to increase in production facilities. Thus, requiring large number of machine to manufacture the products. However, it takes around 6 months to assemble a machine to streamline it.
- Geographic concentration of manufacturers: High dependence of global manufacturers on People’ Republic of China is major factor for the backlog of products. Due to this pandemic situation, there has been a shutdown in China and many workers were quarantined. Thus, the production of PPE products was reduced.
- Export bans: As the corona virus was spreading at an exponential rate, many countries restricted the travelling of people and movement of products from one country to other. In addition, the countries exporting PPE products to others also banned the supply of these products so as to meet the domestic demands. As of March 2020, 22 countries implemented export bans. These countries include India, japan, Bangladesh, France, Germany, Malaysia, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan, China, Thailand, and other countries.
- Other reasons: Low availability of transportation, limited workforce, and roadblocks are the other reason leading to the shortage of products.
STRATEGIC DECISIONS FOR REDUCING THE DEMAND GAP
With the decline and ineffective supply chain management, government and manufacturers are taking initiatives to effectively manage the supply of PPE and make appropriate use of these products in healthcare settings. The capacity to expand PPE production is limited, and the current demand for respirators and masks cannot be met, if widespread inappropriate use of PPE continues
GLOBAL MANUFACTURERS INITIATIVES
Some of the companies with real-time connectivity and technological advanced supply chain management are also helping the world in meeting their requirements.
- 3M is increasing the production via its international manufacturing facilities in Europe, Asia, and North America. However, the company due to no hike in prices of its respirators, retailers and dealers are not responding properly.
- DuPont Initiatives:
- The company launched Tyvek Together Program to increase the production of Tychem and Tyvek personal protective garments to protect the healthcare workers. Since, January 2020, the company has increased its production by 9 million garments per month. Under this program, the company is focusing to develop 15 million garments per month. In addition, the company will donate more than 57000 Tyvek coveralls to the U.S. states which are most affected by COVID-19.
- DuPont entered into partnership with FedEx and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to accelerate the delivery of PPE products. FedEx will help in transporting Tyvek roll goods from manufacturing site in the U.S. to the Vietnam facility and then the finished product is returned to the U.S.
- DuPont entered into partnership with Cummins, Inc. to meet the demand of N95 respirator masks.
WHO is working with the Pandemic Supply Chain Networks, industries, and governments to accelerate the production of these products. It estimates that manufacturing should be increased by approximately 40%. In addition, rising government support for the production of PPE is expected to boost the PPE market. These include delivering equipment in countries with urgent needs, easing the restrictions on distribution and export of the medical supplies, providing guidance on the rational use of PPE, and others.
The following are the measures taken to optimize the availability of PPE:
- Minimize the need for PPE
- Use of telemedicine
- Use physical barriers to reduce exposure
- Restriction of healthcare workers in COVID-19 patient’s room who are not involved in direct care.
- Appropriate and rational use of PPE