New Brunswick Tribune

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Canadian hospitals are playing ‘supply chain wake-a-mole’

Key takeaways:

  • Everything from computers to tyres has been affected by the global supply chain disruption, and health care is no different.

Supply constraints contribute to the system’s stress as Canadian hospitals work to catch up on the backlog of health demands caused by COVID-19.

The global supply chain disruption has impacted everything from computers to tyres, and health care is no exception.

“We’ve been hearing from our hospitals that they’re seeing upwards of 600 individual product disruptions every week, and that’s been their experience since early spring 2021,” stated “Kendra Frey, a vice-president at HealthPRO, a company that assists 1,300 Canadian healthcare facilities with procurement.

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Transportation delays, labour difficulties, and a scarcity of basic supplies have all exacerbated the issue. For example, according to Frey, a scarcity of aluminium has hampered crutch production, while a fire at a resin facility has resulted in material shortages.

Manufacturers also switched gears earlier in the epidemic when medical supplies for surgeries weren’t needed for a few months, resulting in low or non-existent stockpiles as hospitals try to catch up on surgeries, she said.

“It’s a supply chain whack-a-mole game; if you don’t have a stockpile of everything you’ll need in a year, you’re going to have a disruption,” she explained.

Some hospitals, according to Frey, have taken clinicians off the floor to work on procurement. For example, when one of the hospitals was just hours away from cancelling surgery, HealthPro had to help coordinate a loan of surgical gloves between two hospitals on opposite sides of the country.

Canadian hospitals playing supply chain whack-a-mole with key materials

Hospital employees will have a heavier workload.

According to the nurses’ union, workers at The Ottawa Hospital’s three campuses have also had a heavier burden, including chasing down supplies.

“Sutures, staplers, gloves, and dressing supplies are among the items that are not readily available in operating rooms (operating rooms). 

And it’s just sort of trickled down to the individual units and wards. “The Ontario Nurses Association, which represents workers at The Ottawa Hospital, has a negotiating unit president, Rachel Muir.

Nurses, according to Muir, are wasting a lot of time looking for supplies and determining what replacements have been sent in or figuring out how to make do with the items they do have.

According to Muir, they’ve started asking expectant mothers to save their cardiac monitor belts to use at their next sessions, which is generally a throwaway supply. 

Nurses must also use gowns and sterile drapes for purposes other than those planned, thereby depleting the availability of materials for those procedures.

“It’s adding to their workload because now when they’re following something down, someone needs to come in and cover their patients,” she explained.

Muir is concerned that workers will handle the increased burden after nearly two years of working during a pandemic, with shortages expected to linger for years.

“It may appear to be a little issue, but it isn’t when you consider what else the nurses have had to deal with and continue to deal with. This is just one more thing, and I’m wondering if this will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some nurses, “she remarked.

“Whether we like it or not, it will have an impact on the care we can provide at some point.”

In an emailed statement, the Ottawa Hospital said that the shortage has had no effect on surgeries or procedures and that professionals working on procurement are not affected.

The hospital says it will continue to monitor the scenario and is working with makers and their supply partners to find solutions, including “expanding warehouse as well as inventory capacity to make sure we are well-stocked with items, planning ahead of time than usual, and working with alternative suppliers for certain products.”

Source: CBC News

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