Articles & Resources

Critical Supply
June 17, 2020

Sourcing PPE in a Landscape of Scams

Few people would have guessed at the start of 2020 that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) would become such an in-demand and scarce asset just a few months into the year. However, the reality is that much of the world was caught unprepared in regards to having available,appropriate PPE. The good news is that protective gear is increasingly getting to where it needs to be. The bad news is that scammers and profiteers are taking advantage of the desperate need for equipment. This is creating chaos in the supply chain. Making matters more complex is the fact that a supply chain that has historically only been accessed by hospitals and care providers is now being stretched by "commercial" buyers.

A New and Uncharted Landscape for PPE Supply and Demand

As the New York Times points out, "In the United States, the federal government has decided against commandeering American factories to create a new stream of masks. Instead, federal officials are competing against states, hospitals, and medical suppliers for the same pool of masks, which come mostly from China." This has opened up something of anew frontier for those tasked with sourcing Niosh N95 masks and other protective items from new suppliers due to their typical suppliers being overwhelmed by demand. It's also creating a new economy of sorts for hospitals and medical professionals who are suddenly in the position of negotiating with"pop-up" middlemen and entrepreneurs who've arrived on the scene only within the past few months.

Opportunities for Fraud and Misrepresentation

Unfortunately, profiteers began circling almost as quickly as the demand for Personal Protective Equipment arrived. Forbes reports that law enforcement in the United States has already uncovered mask scams totaling more than $799 million around the country. In New Jersey, a used-car dealer was arrested for posing as an authorized 3M dealer as part of a scam that involved selling masks with a markup of 400 percent. The $45 million scam involved more than 7 million unverified masks that would have been used by healthcare providers around the country. It's far from an isolated case.

An Atlanta man was arrested after he tried to defraud a federal agency into paying more than$750 million for an order of more than 125 masks and other PPE that didn't actually exist. In California, two men were arrested after it was alleged that they tried to sell $4 million worth of personal protective gear that they did not actually possess.

Even resellers and groups that have the legitimate gear to offer are still commonly charging rates that are much higher than what hospitals were paying in pre-COVID times. The reality is that many hospitals and medical facilities have been placed in a desperate situation due to a lag in the supply chain. What's more, a new wave of "brokers" is disrupting the usual channels used by hospitals to obtain quality, verified equipment. This both slows down access for first responders and essential workers and calls into question the effectiveness of the gear that is obtained.

The New York Times reports that several hospital executives have told the paper they are being bombarded with offers for masks. However, all of the offers for products come with prices that are much higher than what hospitals typically pay for the same gear. There is also the issue of being unable to properly vet for quality when placing orders with"new" companies and organizations.

"You’re in this uncharted territory where you’re struggling to just at least validate,” the head of supply chain for the UMass Memorial hospital network tells the New York Times. “The last thing we want to do is put product on a clinician that is not going to protect them.”The reality is that even many wholesalers aren't in a position to vet their products before offering them to hospitals. Many buy bulk pallets of masks from China that they mark up in price substantially. This is the default strategy used by many people who refer to themselves as"brokers." However, these brokers are often little more than people who spend time searching the Internet for liquidation sales from unverified sellers. It becomes a supply chain of unverified sources passing products on to other unverified sources before the problematic products reach care settings.

Creating a Plan to Access Critical Items

Careful planning is necessary to navigate a complicated route to obtaining genuine Personal Protective Equipment in the face of interference from hasty or non-reputable dealers. One of the ways around the problem is to source gear from a distributor that's in it for the long haul instead of offering a fly-by-night marketplace for essential equipment. Here's a look at the items that every care facility needs steady access to during COVID-19:

●    Disposable masks.

●    Gowns.

●    Gloves.

●    Face shields.

●    Niosh N95 masks.

●    Detection and mitigation devices.

●    Sanitizer.

Critical supply is a steady, reliable presence that's been at the forefront of providing essential equipment to health careproviders amid the COVID-19 crisis. We're providing access to critical supply materials to large corporations and government agencies without any of the questions of reliability or integrity that are being raised by many brokers selling Niosh N95 masks and other items.

What makes our firm different is that we do what we do with a mission of elevating social and economic progress in a transforming world. That means providing our clients with real-time solutions for critical supply and materials as we all move forward into the post-COVID world as prepared as possible. We provide a marketplace for all traditional protective and critical items. The majority of the items we offer are sourced from regions outside of China. We also adapt cutting-edge technology solutions to assist you with testing, tracking, and tracing. It all comes together to ensure that your critical needs are met by a single, reliable source. Get critical support during a critical time for the health and safety of your staff and clients

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