A southern Virginia factory, which is the only facility in the U.S. that is equipped to make medical-grade synthetic rubber for exam gloves, isn’t actually making any at all.
Neither are two other factories — one in Maryland, one in New Hampshire — that are supposed to transform the rubber into actual gloves, NPR reported Nov. 3.
Bringing the manufacturing of more medical supplies into the U.S. to reduce the healthcare supply chain’s reliance on foreign-made items has been a goal set by the HHS, but executing it has been more of a challenge.
A spokesperson for HHS said that it continues to be a priority, but “sustaining the gains that our country has made over the last few years is difficult, important and requires continued investment in domestic manufacturing,” according to NPR.
But right now, many manufacturers still rely on foreign-produced raw material for glove-making. Despite receiving grants for production of the materials on U.S. soil, it is still more expensive to purchase supplies from U.S.-based manufacturers than it is foreign ones.
“If they can get a glove for a penny versus a nickel, they are going to go for the penny,” Eric Toner, MD, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told NPR.
What suppliers need, they say, especially ahead of the next pandemic, is “long-term direct-from-the-factory purchase contracts, or reimbursements for health care organizations that spend extra money to buy American-made products,” according to NPR.
And without that, Dan Izhaky, CEO of United Safety Technology, a PPE manufacturer, told NPR that “it could be a pandemic, it could be a geopolitical event, we don’t know what it would be. But once global supply chains shut down, if we don’t have some domestic capability to produce this, then it’s shame on us, all of us.”