One of the most troubling aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it highlighted a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and necessary medical supplies such as ventilators and face masks. As the pandemic continues, though we’ve seen some overall slowing of the rate of infection, we have an important opportunity to look at how we access medical supplies and PPE and consider making a shift to increasing manufacturing medical supplies and equipment in the United States.
Why Is There a Shortage in Equipment?
There are two key factors that play a role in why we experienced a shortage in things like ventilators, face masks, face shields, and other necessary materials.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, about half of the world’s face masks were manufactured in China. As that was the source of the outbreak, they stopped selling their supply, so other countries around the world began holding on to their stock, also. This threw a wrench immediately in global supply chain and there was less supply and equipment to go around. As more cases of the virus were reported, manufacturing plants around the world closed down, so new gear wasn’t being produced.
While face shields, N95 masks, and ventilators are an important part of health care supply inventory, they aren’t used in a majority of cases that most health care workers deal with. However, an illness like COVID-19, which is highly contagious, targets the lungs, and can be lethal, requires these supplies along with additional stock of more commonly used supplies, like gowns and gloves. So, as need increases and more people become infected and seek medical care, demand and use go up.
Dealing with a Shortage So Far
As supplies ran out, hospital networks were begging for supplemental shipments to deal with demand, but the supply simply wasn’t there. Trying to scale up production on N95 masks rapidly is especially challenging because these masks require melt-blown fabric, a fine mesh of plastic polymer fibers that block particles without blocking air flow. The machines used to melt down the plastic and blow it into ultra-thin fabric sheeting using heated air are complicated and expensive to build, mainly because the conditions are so difficult to perfect for consistent results.
However, other needed supplies are much easier to make and manufacture. In fact, medical injection molding and medical thermoforming companies have been able to shift production to rapidly create face shields and other medical equipment. The Defense Production Act could be invoked to require manufacturing companies shift to scaling up production of needed supplies. Meanwhile, a “maker army” came together online to share blueprints of medical equipment like ventilators so those with access to 3D printing could print ventilator parts for local hospitals.
Manufacturing Medical Equipment Moving Forward
This pandemic has shown that investing in medical manufacturing in the United States is vital to public health. Being able to tap into an available resource and scale up production can allow us to not only support our health care workers more effectively, it can also slow down the spread of illness by making sure masks and PPE are readily available.
Medical supply companies can partner with US plastics manufacturing companies who specialize in medical injection molding and medical thermoforming, rather than relying on overseas suppliers. In fact, at Advanced Plastiform, Inc., we take pride in offering short lead times, low per-unit pricing, and high-quality plastics used in the health care industry.
Contact Us for Custom Medical Plastics
If you are seeking high-quality, safe medical plastics that meet government regulations, reach out to Advanced Plastiform, Inc. We have an experienced team of designers, engineers, and manufacturers available to help you create safe, durable medical equipment to use in all types of medical facilities. We proudly serve seven states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia.