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SALT LAKE CITY — Intermountain Healthcare is calling on Utahns to help as supply chain issues have made medical devices in critically short supply both in the state and nationwide.
Officials urge Utahns to check their closets, attics and garages for used metal crutches and other walk-assist equipment. Supply chain issues are being felt globally as disruptions have caused shortages of necessary medical equipment around the world.
Experts point to the COVID-19 pandemic as the main cause of the disruption, which has been amplified by a shortage of materials — materials such as aluminum. The disruptions, along with the shortage, have caused an "unprecedented low level" of medical supplies at facilities across the world.
Dr. Joey Kamerath, a senior medical director for rehabilitation at Intermountain Healthcare, said the growing shortage and uncertainty of the supply chain will greatly impact patient care.
"We are indeed in desperate need of your crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and canes in order to provide our patients with the care that they need at Intermountain Healthcare," he said. "We go through 1,800 pairs of crutches every single month, yet, unfortunately, our supply chain has remained completely dry of this equipment."
Kamerath said officials expect the need for walk-assist devices and supplies to spike in November and December – the busiest time of year for orthopedic surgeries. Part of that spike is due to winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, but he emphasized the need will go beyond orthopedic surgeries.
"Members of our community will continue to suffer from strokes. Children will continue to be involved in motor vehicle accidents. Members of our community will have sports related injuries or require other surgeries. And they will all need this equipment for their safety and to aid in their recovery," Kamerath said.
Despite the demand increasing, officials say no one is sure when the supply will be able to meet that demand. The situation is unprecedented, they said during a panel discussion on Monday.
"I've never seen this. I've practiced health care in various continents. I recently moved from the Middle East and every time I come back to practice health care in North America, I'm so grateful for our supply chain that we take for granted in health care," Kamerath said. "And now all of a sudden we can see that we can't order anymore."
The inability to order supplies has spurred LeanOnUtah, a statewide donation drive organized by Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health, Steward Health and the Utah Hospital Association. LeanOnUtah.com lists locations around the state where supplies are being collected.
Youth groups, neighborhoods and communities are also urged to organize drives to collect the devices in demand, and drop them off at the listed donation facilities. All devices donated will be inspected for safety, sanitized and sent to hospitals that need them, the panel said.
"I couldn't imagine being in a better place to manage this and the opportunity for our wide community to really get involved — involved in a way that includes all the health care systems in this state — coming together to solve this problem," said Intermountain spokesman Glen Beeby. I think is a unique, unique benefit of where we live and a great opportunity."