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5 Life-Saving Essentials Plummeting in Supply

These are the urgent shortages.

In recent weeks, headlines have pondered what the ongoing supply-chain crisis—caused by the COVID pandemic, along with other economic traumas like trade wars and Brexit—might mean for the availability of Christmas gifts. At the same time, medical professionals across the country say they're dealing with more urgent shortages—the kind that affect their ability to provide lifesaving health care. These are some of the shortfalls that are causing critical conditions in health systems nationwide. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Nurses and Pharmacists

In the Hospital Operating Room Anesthesiologist Looks and Monitors and Controls Patient's Vital Signs, Nodding to a Chief Surgeon to Proceed with Surgery.

Hospitals and healthcare providers nationwide are reporting a shortage of nurses and other essential healthcare personnel. On Thursday, Kentucky's governor declared the state's chronic nursing shortage to be an emergency, and Maryland's governor introduced legislation to fill staffing gaps in hospitals there. In Minnesota, hospitals have canceled everything but lifesaving procedures, saying employee burnout amid the continuing pandemic has stretched staff too thin. Pharmacies are also struggling with staff shortages: the demand for COVID testing and vaccinations have led many pharmacies to reduce hours or close temporarily because there aren't enough trained professionals to fill prescriptions and provide the new services necessitated by the pandemic.


Basic Medical Supplies

People in protective suits and masks delivering vaccine of coronavirus.

On Thursday, Kaiser Health News reported that because of the pandemic and supply chain shortages, hospitals are now "scrounging for basic medical supplies," including crutches, syringes, needles, tubing, gloves, catheters, surgery drapes, and even urine collection kits. The latter forced at least one health system to order individual parts to make their own, complicating workflow and leaving less time to care for patients. "Now our supply shortage is actually affecting our ability to do the care," said George Morris, MD, of Minnesota-based CentraCare. "When you throw in all these variations — four different types of collection kits, an infinite number of different types of crutches — there's always that little slight chance of error. And that's unfortunate, but that's the reality."

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Baby Formula


Parents of infants are reporting that many popular brands of baby formula are sold out in stores and online, alarming those whose babies are unable to breastfeed or rely on certain formulas because of allergies. "COVID-19, already, is stressful enough, and then you can't get what you need for your child, that's a crisis," said one mother in Burlington, North Carolina. The CDC advises consulting your pediatrician about substituting formulas if shortages make that necessary.

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Long-Term Caretakers

Female carer physiotherapist help happy old woman patient stand with walker.

Since the pandemic began, nursing homes have lost 14 percent of their staffers, about 221,000 jobs. "Those who have been in this field for 30 or 40 years, say they have never seen the workforce challenges as bad as they are today," one nursing home representative told NBC 12 in Virginia this week.

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Lifesaving Devices


Because of shipping backlogs caused by the supply-chain crisis, some hospitals are reporting shortages of lifesaving specialized medical devices, including ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and breathing tubes. "This is already 2021, but shipping companies cannot give an accurate hour-by-hour estimation about when goods will arrive or where they are," said Tinglong Dai, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in health care operations. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael