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Medical Equipment Shortages Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

August 18, 2020

On the 14th of August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that there are severe shortages of medical supplies due to COVID-19. Everyone should be able to access medical supplies during this pandemic, as these supplies are vital for tackling and controlling the impact of COVID-19. The FDA is trying their best to ensure that medical supplies are accessible at such a crucial time. The FDA made a list publicly available of the limited medical supplies; this list can be found on the FDA website.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many healthcare companies boosted the production of medical equipment as there was a greater need. In March, the healthcare technology company called Philips began to maximize the production of ventilators. The CEO of Royal Philips Frans Van Houten said “There is an unprecedented global demand for medical equipment to help diagnose and treat patients with COVID-19. We are working around the clock to double our hospital ventilator production within the next eight weeks and we are aiming for a four-fold increase by the third quarter.”

Other companies such as GE Healthcare also enhanced manufacturing. The CEO and President of GE Healthcare Kieran Murphy said “GE Healthcare is proud to support customers, governments and the broader healthcare community in the fight against the coronavirus. Our dedicated teams are working around the clock to ensure that our customers and partners on the front lines have the equipment and servicing needed to diagnose and treat patients with COVID-19.”

Even though healthcare companies tried to increase the production of medical equipment, there are still shortages due to the substantial global need. Now moving forward, it is important that the FDA is aware and the public remains informed of the current medical device situation.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was approved and signed on the 27th of March. The CARES Act gives the FDA the power to ensure that medical device supplies are being maintained during this public health emergency. As part of the CARES Act, the medical device manufacturers are now required to alert the FDA if a medical device is discontinued or if there is a disruption in the supply of specific medical devices. The FDA will keep the public informed and aware of the medical items that are currently in limited supply and those that have been discontinued by keeping an up to date list.

The current list contains 20 items that relate to PPE, laboratory testing supplies, and ventilation devices. In the PPE-related items, surgical and examination gowns; latex, polymer, specialty, and vinyl examination gloves (powdered and non-powdered); and surgical respirators are very low in supply. PPE is vital for keeping the frontline workers safe and a lot more PPE is being used these days because of the pandemic. As the COVID-19 testing has been significantly ramped up, there are also shortages in the testing supplies. The stocks of swabs, transport culture medium, and transport and collection equipment for microbiological samples are extremely low. Furthermore, patients with severe cases of COVID-19 have required life support with ventilation devices, and so non-continuous and continuous ventilators are in high use too. The FDA says the shortages are expected to last for the entire duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, the infusion pump system by Becton Dickinson and Company is the only item that has been discontinued. The manufacturers of the items with limited availability will not be disclosed as there are fears that people will begin stockpiling these specific items.

Image Reference (Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash)