During the coronavirus pandemic, many hospitals have struggled with dangerous shortages of personal protective equipment.
But Jodi Sherman of the Yale Schools of Medicine and Public Health says a pandemic is not the only reason medical supplies can run short. Extreme weather can disrupt manufacturing or transportation.
“And so essentially it’s an interruption of the supply chain,” she says.
For example, Hurricane Maria affected production at facilities that make medical equipment in Puerto Rico, causing nationwide shortages of critical supplies like IV bags.
So Sherman says it’s important to make hospitals more resilient to these interruptions – for example, by relying less on single-use medical supplies.
“There’s been this enormous trend toward everything being disposable, from simple devices like a blood pressure cuff or even a patient’s pillow to very complex surgical devices,” she says.
Sometimes, single-use products are necessary for safety. But Sherman says many products can be designed for sterilization and reuse.
She says that could reduce hospitals’ reliance on supply chains that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change or a global pandemic.