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Premier Inc. turns to American suppliers for PPE and other critical supplies

by Valerie Dimond, Contributing Reporter | May 21, 2020
Business Affairs
Healthcare improvement company Premier plans to start working with domestic manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essential medical supplies in an effort to avoid shortages and sustain inventory levels, especially in times of need.

According to the announcement, the group purchasing organization will also collaborate with partners and invest in companies that source healthcare products from various regions to ensure more products are readily available when needed.

“One of the major lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the current U.S. supply chain over-leverages foreign markets for many vital medical products, which can inhibit our ability to manage through a pandemic or another natural disaster,” said Premier president Michael J. Alkire, noting that the idea has been on the radar for years. “We have taken steps to insist that manufacturers have contingency plans in place, as well as a diverse supply chain for medical products.”

According to a recent Premier survey, isolation gown shortages is the top concern right now among healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, with 74 percent of those surveyed expressing worry about having enough on hand. Surgical masks, viral swabs, face shields, ventilators and hand sanitizer are also in low supply.

Unfortunately, about 80 percent of critical PPE supplies are sourced from Southeast Asia which has closed its border during the pandemic, making access to these products increasingly difficult. Premier’s program will not eliminate purchasing supplies overseas, but it will certainly lessen U.S. reliance on them going forward.

A study conducted by GetUsPPE, a volunteer organization that connects healthcare providers with PPE, found that the majority of hospitals, outpatient clinics, and skilled nursing facilities are seeking N95 respirators followed by surgical masks, gowns, and face shields.

“While we clearly understand that we need global diversity and domestic sources for supplies, the United States has historically been a high-cost region for manufacturing,” said Alkire. He says new capital and long-term contracts will allow Premier partner companies to offer more competitive price points.

“It’s truly a win-win strategy — one where we expect to get a broader array of quality products at a fair price, all while rebuilding domestic manufacturing and better insulating ourselves from risk and disruption,” said Alkire.

Premier said the initiative is similar to its ProvideGx program, which they say has been successful at increasing supply chain diversity and improving access to critical medications.

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