ADA Calls for Improved Access to PPE

The unprecedented demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) brought on by the pandemic has strained supplies of these crucial healthcare products for dental practices. Now, the American Dental Association (ADA) is urging the federal government to improve access to personal protective equipment (PPE).

In Dec. 2020, the ADA sent letters to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHA) addressing its concerns “regarding the cost, availability, and distribution of personal protective equipment.”

PPE: Limited Supplies + Increased Demand = Increased Prices

According to data compiled by the ADA’s Health Policy Institute (HPI), prices for PPE — N95 and surgical masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, disinfecting supplies — are up significantly. The HPI has been conducting biweekly polls on economic conditions for dental practices during the pandemic. Core questions in the tracking poll include:

  • How many days worth of PPE does your practice have?
  • How much have prices changed for PPE since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How difficult has it been to obtain the correct size and material (e.g. latex, non-latex) of gloves?
  • How has the number of PPE distributors used by practice changed since the onset of the pandemic.

The HPI said that nearly one-third of dentists have reported prices across all categories of PPE have tripled. Surgical masks and gloves have seen the largest increases, and most dentists have found it moderately or very difficult to obtain the correct gloves. Also, more dentists are currently relying on a variety of PPE distributors; nearly three-quarters of dentists are using at least two.

For their part, leading distributors report that key factors driving PPE prices include:

  • The limited number of manufacturers
  • Raw material requirements
  • Global logistic challenges
  • Import/export issues

In short, the global demand for PPE is pushing prices to unprecedented levels in the U.S. The increased costs for PPE come at a time when patient volumes are down significantly. The HPI predicts that dental care spending could decline by up to 38 percent in 2020 and 20 percent in 2021.

In the letter, the ADA stated, “Dentistry is an essential health care service and dentists and their teams are essential health care workers who need access to PPE in order to stay safe from the coronavirus.”

The Takeaway

While the ADA is dedicated to advocating for dental practices, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on dentistry. Given the increased costs and declining patient volumes, more dentists may consider forming associations or selling their practices. The best way to navigate these unprecedented challenges is to consult with an attorney who provides legal services to dental professionals.