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Supply Chain Woes Trigger Medical Device Shortage

Eying the offshore traffic jams at ports and supply chain problems, California hospitals report delays and shortages in medical supplies. Some patients are forced to reuse medical tubes.

CAL MATTERS – When Henry Genung was four months old, doctors cut a hole in his windpipe and inserted a tube to help him breathe.

Born with a rare genetic mutation that blocked his upper airway, Henry, who is now 18 months old, will need the tube for several more years.

For three months, Henry hasn’t had a new rubber tracheostomy tube even though doctors recommend that they be replaced weekly to reduce the risk of infection.

Instead, Henry’s parents have resorted to soaking his used tubes in hydrogen peroxide and boiling them for five minutes. Their medical supplier and doctor’s office told them they don’t know how soon new supplies will be available.

“It’s an ongoing saga of delayed shipments,” said Myah Genung, Henry’s mother, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband Dillon and son.

“Now, specialized equipment like walkers, canes, wheelchairs, crutches, syringes, needles, catheters, surgical gloves, feeding tubes and suction canisters are increasingly hard to come by.”

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With upwards of 80 container ships languishing off the coast of Southern California, patients and medical suppliers are worried that stories like Genung’s will become increasingly common.

The logjam at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — which handle 40% of all waterbound imports to the U.S. — has triggered shortages of everything from computer chips to paper products to kitchen appliances, and drawn the attention of President Joe Biden.

But, while many people are worrying about delayed Christmas gifts, many Californians are grappling with shortages of lifesaving medical supplies.

California hospitals say medical supplies are more difficult to acquire now or are taking much longer to be delivered. Although the Hospital Association of Southern California says no one has reported any acute shortages yet, administrators are concerned about the delayed shipments that are anchored off the coast.

Experts say the shortages and inflation will drive health care costs up, increasing insurance premiums … READ MORE. 

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