With supply chain delays and worry about items making it to their destinations on time, should physicians be worried about medical equipment and supplies not getting to their practices? For those physicians either expanding or setting up a practice, the scenes of cargo ships stranded on the water can seem surreal. Is that x-ray machine, examination table, or diagnostic equipment delayed in transit?
Richard Holston, a sales rep with McKesson Medical -Surgical for the past 8 years, provides medical supplies, medical equipment, lab supplies, lab equipment, and routine pharmaceuticals to all aspects of the medical community, specifically primary care that is non hospital-based. He works with doctors on the initial setup, then as they grow, he reorders routine products for them. He sells physicians furniture like examination tables and stools and medical cabinetry. On the diagnostic side, it means sourcing equipment like EKGs, Holter monitors, and blood pressure devices. He also provides lab equipment to test blood and amino acids, flu testing kits, COVID testing kits, strep testing kits, and pregnancy kits.
Currently, Holston is seeing delays of about 8-10 weeks on tables, lights, stools, and autoclaves. EKG equipment is taking about 4 weeks and most other items arrive within 2 weeks. “Sterile surgical gloves are the hardest to get right now, but other PPE is rock solid,” he explains. The reason latex gloves are in short supply is that they come from the latex ducts of rubber trees in plantations in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The United States doesn’t have the climate to grow rubber trees. Computer chips, which also come from overseas, are hard to find too, which can affect medical devices.
Holston estimates that 75% of medical equipment comes from the US, with the remaining 25% originating in Mexico or Southeast Asia. “The supply chain is broken right now, waiting for cargo ships to dock,” says Holston. “Our biggest problem is getting supplies off the boat, especially when we’re short on truck drivers.” McKesson has 40 distribution centers in the US and employs its own fleet of truck drivers and uses UPS too. “There’s a delay getting supplies to us and then getting from us to the end user,” Holston adds. “I don’t foresee anything changing until 2023.”