Jamie Teets, partner with GRJ Health, explains the reasons for the critical shortage of nitrile gloves that has plagued hospitals and healthcare workers since the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.
There continues to be a serious shortage of nitrile gloves throughout the North American healthcare system, Teets says. The product is sourced mostly in Asia, particular Malaysia, where the largest producers are based. Nitrile gloves are a critical component of personal protective equipment (PPE), consisting of a durable rubber-based material that is more protective against infection than vinyl or standard latex.
The acute shortage of nitrile goods began in April and May of 2020, and hasn’t improved since then, although Teets says GRJ managed to secure a steady supply from a Malaysian manufacturer when it launched operations nearly a year ago. The situation became acute for all buyers when some manufacturers were forced to temporarily close down plants due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Counterfeit and sub-standard product has also been a problem. Because of demand caused by the pandemic, the PPE industry nearly doubled in size virtually overnight, Teets says. “That created a lot of fraudsters who were getting into the business to make a quick dime.” Too many middlemen and third parties were inserting themselves into the supply chain, creating distance between manufacturer and distributor. The situation has made it all the more important to nurture close ties with trusted manufacturers, Teets adds. “We learned that you have to physically go see and test the product — meet the people who run the business.”
In the near term, nitrile gloves for use in North America will continue to be sourced internationally, due to the high expense and time required to build a domestic supply chain. “It’s a several-year process,” Teets says.
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