A supply chain in distress?

Respondents report delays, back orders, cancellations, increased prices
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Friday, April 17, 2020

YARMOUTH, Maine – A whopping 95% of respondents to a recent HME Newspoll say they’re having trouble obtaining new equipment from manufacturers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The equipment they’re having the most trouble obtaining: oxygen for 45% of respondents, followed by ventilators for 20% and hospital beds for another 20%.

“Equipment is being delayed, and orders are being cancelled for supplies and standard equipment we normally order,” wrote one respondent. “We are attempting to help supply supplemental oxygen to COVID-19 to help with home quarantines, but we are running low on units.”

Eighty-one percent of respondents reported lower than usual inventory levels, with about half reporting that they’re searching for used equipment to fill in gaps.

Provider Victoria Peterson of Respiratory & Medical Homecare in Texas said her company stocked up on oxygen concentrators in February, expecting issues. But that equipment has flown off the shelves as area hospitals lowered their patient census in anticipation of a flood of COVID-19 patients.

“I understand prioritizing the acute care side, but what happens to those facilities when they are unable to properly discharge patients,” she said. “Our local case managers are already struggling and our county only has about 250 cases. I can’t imagine what’s happening in New York or Michigan.”

For vents, respondents report not only difficulty obtaining new equipment but also difficulty obtaining PM kits, creating significant delays in the preventative maintenance of their inventory.

“As a result, we have had to rent ventilators, with difficulty, to fill the demand,” wrote the respondent. “However, this has resulted in increased costs to the business.”

Speaking of costs, when respondents are finding new equipment, it’s sometimes more expensive due to surcharges and comes with “more rigorous payment terms.”

“Lead times of six weeks or more (and) increased prices from manufacturers has made it necessary to ration and triage certain equipment,” wrote one respondent.

Other respondents report having sufficient stock, since there are no longer elective surgeries or doctor office visits feeding them referrals.

“Most of our new business has slowed by more than 70%,” one respondent wrote. “Therefore, we are not going through inventory as we normally do.”