ASCs struggled to secure necessary supplies in the early stages of the pandemic. Here's what six ASC leaders are worried about during the fourth COVID-19 surge.
Editor's note: These interviews were edited lightly for clarity and brevity.
1. Pricing spikes and shortages
Beth Van Dusen, RN, BSN. Director of ASC Clinical Operations of Shields Health Care Group (Boston): Most of us are familiar with the original shortages of personal protective equipment at the start of the pandemic, which may return if COVID-19 variants like delta continue to circulate. But the supply chain issues stretch well beyond PPE. As social distancing continues and manufacturers need to maintain reduced work schedules to comply, we're going to continue to face supply shortages and/or spike pricing to secure needed supplies.
2. Stock hoarding
Kristie Sudderth, RN. Administrator of Columbia Surgery Center (Spokane, Wash.): I'm concerned about renewed COVID-19 restrictions throughout all industries requiring increased usage of PPE and repeat strain on production. And while, in most instances, supply and demand are usually balanced, facilities may have the tendency to begin hoarding stock and supplies, creating a false demand that's not sustainable and increases pricing.
3. Back orders
Dan Good. Materials Manager of Copper Ridge Surgery Center (Traverse City, Mich.): One of my biggest concerns with the supply chain is the increase of back orders on commonly needed goods. There have always been back orders, but since the pandemic, there seems to be an inordinate amount of rolling back orders. These back orders take time and energy to source from another vendor or to find a clinically acceptable substitute.
4. Gloves, gowns and foot covering shortages
Steve Eisentrager. President of Ohio Valley Surgical Hospital (Springfield): One of the biggest supply chain unknowns is the supply of sterile gloves, but also gowns and foot coverings.
5. Demand exceeding supply
Daniel Perez. Materials Manager of Excel Surgery Center (Hackensack, N.J.): My biggest concern with the supply chain is supplies not catching up to meet demand.
6. PPE shortages
Steve Eisentrager: An overriding question is whether personal protective equipment funding has been adequate to address the unknown trajectory of this latest COVID-19 wave. A key impact is how the second wave of COVID-19 progresses, particularly how it translates into higher hospitalizations.
7. Raw material supply
Daniel Perez: Watching raw materials like plastics is a concern, as plastic is used in almost every product in one way or another and can easily affect manufacturers if their connections are closed down. Keeping an eye on all of these things as they can grow into concerns that affect how we source, what we source and where we are sourcing it from — ultimately affecting our total bottom line.
8. Supplier relations
Grant Foley. Executive Director of Midwest Center for Joint Replacement (Indianapolis): Early in the pandemic, we were all scrambling for personal protective equipment, but things seem to have stabilized in that area with how it affects our group. But things can change quickly as we all know; however, we are much more prepared with how to better handle this having gone through the past 18 months. Having allies and teammates that can provide support and counsel with what strategies have worked for them has also proven to be very helpful. From the onset of the organization, we have been focused on creating great partnerships and building relational capital.
9. Increasing lead times
Beth Van Dusen: We're seeing lead times multiply compared to what we saw pre-pandemic. We've already started to address this by hiring a former vendor representative to help us work through various purchasing pathways with our suppliers so we can continue to provide our high-quality, affordable care to residents of New England.
10. Global manufacturing
Daniel Perez: Also a concern is the winter months and how that may curb or increase the rate of COVID-19 infections and newer variants. Closely watching other countries that may close their borders and shut out some manufacturers from logistical channels is also a watch. We saw it with propofol when Italy shut its border and Dr. Reddy was cut from the list of available sources. Specifically, I'm watching in China as a manufacturer of not only goods but raw materials.