Behind the Mask

Supply and Demand – The Global Chain

For a German cardiologist, the onset of the pandemic led to him reevaluate his ability to rely on a supply of necessary equipment when a true global emergency arose. What had appeared robust, was in fact an illusion:

“The German health care system was actually quite professional and in…a good situation. But when the COVID crisis broke out, they had to face a lot of problems.”

Back in April, like so many medical professionals, he quickly found that there was a startling lack of PPE available to him and his staff, and that once the those initial stores of PPE were depleted, replacements were very difficult to obtain driving concerns of how he would care for his patients without them.

“When the crisis broke out, it was actually quite impossible for us to get sufficient face masks for the hospitals. It was difficult to get certain medications, even very common medications or nitrates.”

As the pandemic continued and this issue persisted, this cardiologist began to reevaluate his supply chain at a closer level.

“We saw where our products are actually coming from, because we had a lack of these products during the crisis. I think that made their relationship towards these companies a lot more intense, and they were actually questioned, “What are you doing? Where are you getting your stuff from?”

This realization that many of his critical supplies were being provided via international sources, which were compromised during the pandemic, opened his eyes to a larger problem of unreliable global supply chains. He saw this as a weakness in the system, and noticed that as soon as pandemic was in full swing and supply chains were fundamentally disrupted, it fell to local sources to ramp up production and help fill the gaps; a good thing, in his view:

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…now local factories like clothing stores start producing face masks and other protective gear. I think that we will in the future begin producing more and more essential products and drugs locally. So we are not that dependent on importing these from Asia or China anymore.

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Beyond just producing goods like PPE, this cardiologist felt that “local sourcing” of materials and drugs was a positive change that could, or should, remain in place even after pandemic had passed:

“The same happened to the pharmaceutical companies that supply our medication. We had a shortage of a lot of drugs for example blood pressure medication such as candesartan because this was imported from Asia. So here as well the local production needs to be pushed that for a possible second crisis more products can be produced locally in Europe.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts beyond a disruption of patient flow; it has also shown the fragility of the global supply chain. Something that will remain relevant for years. This shift in supply chain routes will regress some of the globalization we’ve seen expand over the past few decades, with the benefit of allowing a higher level of independence and preparedness that this cardiologist will be happy to know he can rely on.

“I think in the future, we will more be reliant on local expertise and local production of sufficient medical equipment.”

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