More Action Needed to Prioritize Medical Supplies

More Action Needed to Prioritize Medical Supplies
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Almost every day we are hearing and seeing how supply chain issues are affecting cars, new TVs and holiday shopping. Not only are American ports struggling to receive goods stuck at international ports, but, once goods arrive in the U.S., it is a struggle to get them to consumers due to trucking shortages, rail delays, and logjams at loading docks. 

President Biden recently spoke on these issues at the Port of Baltimore, and he rightly acknowledged that resolving these harmful bottlenecks is one of our most pressing economic concerns, along with continuing to fight and contain this pandemic. The newly enacted $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill—which includes billions of dollars to upgrade, modernize and expand our overwhelmed ports—will surely help. We have also seen the private sector step up to do their part and increase capacity and processing where possible. However, these measures alone will not fix the problems that persist, and our policymakers must do more to prioritize the medical supplies that save lives. 

After all, our supply chain woes are more than inconveniences; they risk threatening our ability to treat patients with lifesaving medical technologies and devices. You can wait to buy a new PlayStation, but you can’t wait on a new pacemaker. While Congress has focused on improving supply chain delays for American businesses, lawmakers cannot afford to ignore the medical technology (medtech) sector as these disruptions hamper our ability to develop and distribute these critical devices.

For instance, here at MedSource Labs, we’re developing a new product that can help lower the rate of infections from an IV – one of the most common infections in hospitals. But, as a result of current supply chain disruptions, this product will be significantly delayed. This is especially unfortunate as our hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with patients. 

Persistent supply chain issues are stifling the innovation that allows us to develop the medical devices of tomorrow. Currently, an inordinate amount of our developers’ time is spent dealing with logistics issues and waiting on supplies, rather than creating new and innovative products. If these delays continue, the medtech industry risks being ill-equipped and unprepared to mobilize in response to the next public health crisis. 

Furthermore, the inflation that has resulted from disruptions in the supply chain fall directly on consumers. As of this month, consumer prices are the highest that they have been in the last three decades, which affects a myriad of goods, including critical devices like pacemakers. If consumer prices continue to skyrocket as a result of supply chain-related inflation, it will become more costly and difficult for medtech companies dedicated to developing lifechanging and lifesaving technologies to innovate. 

Unfortunately, supply chain disruptions and shortages are also hurting medtech’s ability to produce and deliver the medical devices and technologies patients and healthcare providers already rely on. Worker shortages at international ports and backlogs of aluminum have forced hospitals and healthcare systems in Utah, West Virginia, and Georgia to ask their communities for donations of crutches, walkers, canes, and wheelchairs as their supplies runs out. 

So many businesses, including the medtech companies that employ nearly 400,000 Americans, will be dealing with the fallout from this pandemic for years to come. As we begin to recover from the pandemic, now is not the time to put the industry that developed the tools to handle COVID-19 in a position that would make it harder to fight future public health crises. This all-hands-on-deck moment requires more collaboration between public and private entities and the continued focus of our lawmakers to ensure that critical medical supplies reach the patients and providers who depend on them.

Todd Fagley is founder and CEO of MedSource Labs, a medical manufacturing firm based in Minnesota.

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