Supply chain issues impact medical supplies, local health care groups put plans in place to protect supplies
If you’ve needed to get tested for COVID in the last month or so, you may have found yourself searching for a bit.
The state and country have seen a surge in the demand for testing.
The spread of the Delta variant is a large part of that.
But it’s also workplaces and schools requiring negative tests for people to return. Or unvaccinated people needing to show a negative test result before then can get into a concert or travel some place.
On top of that high demand, supplies are getting held up in busy ports with large backlogs.
“What we’re seeing is a lot more stress placed upon the supply chain on a wide variety of products. We’re seeing a lot of areas there are raw material shortages. There are longer lead times on products. And a lot of those are now products that are dedicated to either testing of COVID patients or either treatment of COVID patients,” said Gary Rakes, Aspirus Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer.
Rakes said there are five factors that put the supply chain in the positions it’s in now.
They include shutting down the economy at the beginning of the pandemic, unprecedented demand, and congestion at ports due to a labor shortage, container shortage, and truck driver shortage once supplies actually get off the ships.
“A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. I think during this whole pandemic event, we’ve seen a lot of weaknesses in the supply chain. I think if we’ve learned any lessons, I think that we’ve learned that we need to do better as a supply chain industry and be able to solve for these things in the future so that they don’t repeat,” said Rakes.
Rake said Aspirus has been moving forward with little disruptions.
He credits that to planning and safeguards in place to protect health care systems from people who may be panic buying.
Aspirus keeps a high inventory of supply for things like this, though Rakes warns we’ve still got a long way to go before the supply chain is fixed.
“I think this is really the perfect storm that we’re seeing in our industry. I don’t believe, I think most experts believe that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I think what we do see is that it will last for another six months or so,” he said.
Another factor putting stress on supplies is the high number of hospitalized COVID patients.
Aspirus hospitals in Wisconsin and the U.P. are averaging more than 90 patients a day.
It recently had to expand its ICU capacity because of the high number of severely ill COVID patients.
In the North Central Region of Wisconsin, daily COVID hospitalizations have been higher than 100 patients since early September.
Aspirus urges everyone to get vaccinated against COVID to prevent severe illness or death from the virus.