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Analysis

Nearly One-Fifth of Providers Dealing With Higher Medical Mask Prices

By Jack O'Brien  
   March 23, 2020

Still, more than 80% of providers reported having a plan to conserve medical masks, according to a recent survey.

As health systems face increased pressures related to the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, almost 20% of providers reported that acquisition prices for medical masks were higher than in December 2019, according to a recent American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) survey

More than half of providers reported a supply disruption, with 15% of respondents saying the issue was "major or moderate." As a result, clinical staffers have worked without masks or used alternatives with "mixed or poor results."

Still, more than 80% of providers reported having a plan to conserve medical masks, with 70% of those respondents having already implemented that plan.

The current availability of N95 respirator masks was the source of a major disruption for 6% of providers and a moderate disruption for 19% of providers, according to the ASHP survey, while 37% reported that it was a minor disruption.

Meanwhile, the lack of surgical-type masks was only a major disruption for 2% of providers and a moderate disruption for 13% of providers. Another 39% saw the scarcity of masks as a minor disruption, while 44% said there was no disruption.

The availability of N95 and surgical masks has become a concern for hospitals and states across the country in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Last week, Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Scott Steiner told CNN that the Georgia-based organization was being charged $7 for masks that typically cost $0.58 per unit.

On Monday, Kaiser Health News reported that nurses in Seattle have been told to clean and use N95 masks amid a region-wide shortage that has put front-line clinical workers at risk of infection.

Some doctors and nurses have taken to social media to ask for donations of N95 masks, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to utilize the Defense Production Act to kickstart manufacturing efforts for N95 masks.

Private companies have stepped up in recent days to address the issue, with 3M sending more than 500,000 masks to both New York City and Seattle while Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted that the technology company would donate millions of masks to health professionals in the U.S. and Europe.

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


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