Faulty N95 masks hamper healthcare efforts as supply chains dwindle, prices soar

Faulty N95 masks hamper healthcare efforts as supply chains dwindle, prices soar

With mounting pressure on hospitals and healthcare systems worldwide, many have revealed that alongside the increasing pressure to provide high-quality PPE, there are rising rates of defective or substandard protective equipment.

Some hospital executives have revealed that in the search for N95 masks, which stop 95% of very small airborne particles, some have been failing quality and healthcare control standards, indicating that they’re unlikely to be useful in the fight against COVID-19.

A hospital in Springfield, Missouri, has revealed that 100,000 N95 masks purchased outside of their usual suppliers. When they were found to not be to the standard expected, the supplier offered to buy them all again and offer them to a different hospital.

The president of the hospital, Steve Edwards, explained that the masks “aren’t excellent however they’ve some safety. All the pieces about it seem legit. However, the product itself is clearly not.”

The price for the masks has also jumped. In the US, the price of the N95 masks pre-pandemic was around $1 but has now increased to at least $4, with some suppliers charging as much as $7.

In Australia, the demand for the masks spiked in December, during the bushfire crisis across the Eastern states. Now, further demand coupled with reduced international availability means that prices have increased to as much as $10 a unit.

Usually, manufacturers of the masks can be licensed, which the US has undertaken previously, to ensure the quality of the product. Demand currently outstrips supply dramatically, leading some desperate healthcare facilities to purchase the substandard product.

Dan Harris, a solicitor working with Seattle and Washington-area hospitals said he had seen a number of “proof of verification” certificates that are exact replicas of original certificates, indicating that producers of substandard products are copying legitimate certificates in an attempt to appear to be verified suppliers.

Locally, Australians have been warned of price gouging tactics as supply chains struggle with the demand. A Current Affair showed footage of a chemist in Brisbane whose receipts for purchase of boxes of face masks at $11 per unit, who then on-sold the product to consumers at $200.

In Sydney, a chemist displayed a box of 50 surgical face masks for $399, while prices in Adelaide have been as high at $700 for a box of 10 P2 masks.

Health authorities in Australia have reiterated that “face masks are not recommended for the general population.” People who are likely to have contracted the virus and are showing symptoms require a mask around other people, and PPE remains vital for healthcare workers.

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