© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Completed GE digital anesthesia care stations are seen at a GE Healthcare manufacturing facility during the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Acker/File Photo
BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) -General Electric’s healthcare unit said on Tuesday it had increased output of dye used for medical scans and tests at its factory in Ireland and shipped products by air to help combat shortages caused by the suspension of its Shanghai factory.
The steps to boost and speed deliveries of chemicals used in CT scans, x-rays and radiography highlight the far-reaching impact the city’s prolonged COVID-19 lockdown is having on global manufacturing and supply of critical goods.
Some of the largest U.S. hospitals said on Tuesday they are facing critical shortages of iodinated contrast media products.
The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio; Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, Rochester, Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic, and Providence in Renton, Washington all said in statements they were taking steps to secure as much supply as possible and conserve use.
A Providence spokesperson told Reuters that GE’s production in Ireland would only cover about 20% of normal supply to all customers through the end of June, adding that most of the U.S. supply comes from Shanghai.
The Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) warned on May 4 of temporary supply shortages of GE Healthcare’s iodinated contrast media – specifically its Omnipaque products made in Shanghai.
“We are working around the clock to expand capacity of our iodinated contrast media products,” a GE spokesperson said after the company had to close its Shanghai facility for several weeks due to local COVID policies.
It has now reopened, but is not yet fully up to speed.
“We are working to return to full capacity as soon as local authorities allow,” the spokesperson said.
In addition to increasing output at its Cork, Ireland facility to help resolve U.S. shortages, GE has flown product from Cork and Shanghai to the United States, rather than ship by sea to accelerate delivery, the company said. It did not give details on the increase in capacity or what extra costs it had incurred due to the measures.
GNYHA said an 80% cut in supplies was expected to last for the next 6 to 8 weeks and advised healthcare providers to ration stocks.
Providence said it is prioritizing existing supply for critical cases such as stroke, trauma, acute aortic syndrome, new cancer diagnosis (staging), pulmonary embolism and acute coronary syndrome.
Shanghai authorities have tightened a city-wide lockdown imposed more than a month ago on the commercial hub with a population of 25 million, a move that could extend curbs on movement through the month.
GE Healthcare has four contrast media manufacturing facilities, including the one in Shanghai.
A spokesperson for Bayer (OTC:), which competes with GE Healthcare in contrast media, said it is not facing a similar situation. Bayer was taking “several measures to help manage the market situation with incremental volumes to support customers and minimise patient impact,” the spokesperson said, without elaborating further.