Tuesday Nov 29, 2022

Supply chain woes mean shortages of critical medical devices in California – San Francisco Chronicle


When Henry Genung was 4 months old, doctors cut a hole in his windpipe and inserted a tube to help him breathe. Born with a rare genetic mutation that blocked his upper airway, Henry, who is now 18 months old, will need the tube for several more years.

For three months, Henry hasn’t had a new rubber tracheostomy tube, even though doctors recommend that they be replaced weekly to reduce the risk of infection. Instead, Henry’s parents have resorted to soaking his used tubes in hydrogen peroxide and boiling them for five minutes. Their medical supplier and doctor’s office told them they don’t know how soon new supplies will be available.

Henry Genung was born with CLAPO syndrome, which causes malformations of the lymph nodes and obstructs his breathing. His tracheostomy tube is supposed to be replaced weekly, but the Genung family has been unable to get new tracheostomy tubes since September.

“It’s an ongoing saga of delayed shipments,” said Myah Genung, Henry’s mother, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Dillon, and son.

With upwards of 80 container ships languishing off the coast of Southern California, patients and medical suppliers are worried that stories like Genung’s will become increasingly common.

The logjam at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — which handle 40% of all waterbound imports to the U.S. — has triggered shortages of everything from computer chips to paper products and drawn the attention of President Joe Biden. Many Californians are grappling with shortages of lifesaving medical supplies.

California hospitals say medical supplies are more difficult to acquire now or are taking much longer to be delivered. Although the Hospital Association of Southern California says no one has reported any acute shortages yet, administrators are concerned about the delayed shipments that are anchored off the coast.

Experts say the shortages and inflation will drive health care costs up, increasing insurance premiums. In addition, some medical device suppliers are considering cutting off providing devices to patients on Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance for low-income people, as they look for ways to reduce costs.

Port gridlock is the latest chapter in a long saga of medical supply chain disruptions during the pandemic. Demand for personal protective equipment and respirators skyrocketed globally at the same time that overseas manufacturers temporarily closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among workers.

Last winter, hospitals desperate for bed space were sending less-severe COVID-19 patients home on supplemental oxygen.

“We couldn’t keep oxygen concentrators on the wall, couldn’t keep them in inventory,” said Terry Racciato, who owns a durable medical equipment supply firm in San Diego. “The shipping backlog prevented them from getting into the country, much less getting to patients that need them.”

Now, specialized equipment — like walkers, canes, wheelchairs, crutches, syringes, needles, catheters, surgical gloves, feeding tubes and suction canisters — is increasingly hard to come by.

In September, the FDA announced nationwide shortages of ventilators. Specimen collection tubes also have been in short supply since summer.

Compounding the issue, hospitals, which are admitting above-average numbers of patients during the pandemic, are trying to stay ahead of any potential winter COVID-19 surge.

“We are concerned with the constraints placed on supply availability,” said Amy Ritzel, a spokesperson for Prime Healthcare, which operates hospitals throughout the state.

Prime Healthcare has been able to shift supplies as needed among …….

Source: https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Supply-chain-woes-mean-shortages-of-critical-16654861.php

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