by Mark Duro
In 2020 we faced shortages in PPE, supplies and toilet paper due to the Covid 19 epidemic. Now in 2021, we have a new shortage with SMS (Spunbond-Meltblown-Spunbond) wraps from multiple vendors making blue wraps of toilet paper for 2021!
Why has this happened? I have heard numerous reasons:
The shortage is due to the use of SMS in other areas of healthcare and with facilities returning to full surgery schedules that bump has created shortages and delays, I am not sure of the validity of this, but I did contact my rep to see what the real issue was. My rep could not give an exact answer, but I was told they are getting product in every day and product is shipping. Also, because I interact with CS departments all across the US I was told if you do have a shortage or cannot get supply to contact your local rep. I know of some facilities that are trying to stockpile wraps, this will not help the situation. Also, some distributors are limiting the amounts to be distributed to customers to ensure they can supply as many facilities as possible during this trend. It’s almost like when you tried to stock up on toilet paper, but the store says, “limit two per customer”.
Whatever the reason, this situation puts many of us in a bad spot. The other day we were down to just two sheets but somehow, we managed to borrow to get by.
So what can you do if this shortage doesn’t end soon?
Depending on what size wraps you are in need of you could alter the size of your sets to free up larger wraps. A facility I was at recently did this as they were having issues getting 48 and 54” wraps. Other alternatives for wraps could be to look at using a lower or higher grade depending on what your shortage situation is. Another solution could be to going back to the older style sequential wrap. Keep in mind newer staff will need to be Inservice on any packaging change or practice you implement especially if you choose to implement sequential wrapping. Also always check the wrap manufacturer’s IFU for Device and sterilization compatibility.
Other facilities have partially converted to rigid containers. This seems like the easiest resolution however with any changes that you make consult the instrument manufacture and packaging manufacturer’s Instructions for use. In addition, when changing packaging materials, you should also consider product testing after to ensure your new process is has been verified as successful. AAMI 13.9.2 Process verification states, “The health care organization should establish a program for periodic quality assurance testing of routinely processed items on an ongoing basis.
Product testing should be performed
As a consultant, I do not see many facilities practicing routine product testing however it is important to verify that your processes are successful.
Also, when implementing rigid containers always check with the Instrument manufacturer and container manufacturer to verify that the items can be processed and are compatible. There are still several Instrument IFU’s out there that state their items cannot be processed in a rigid container.
Some facilities have opted to return back to using reusable muslin wrap. This is also a good alternative and has many benefits such as its strength, availability and lack of memory when wrapping (doesn’t fold back like SMS). Depending on what service or distributor for obtaining Muslin wrap always check for device compatibility and sterilization modality. Reusable muslin wrap will not help you for your low temp hydrogen peroxide sterilizers needs. In addition, Muslin wraps need to washed and inspected prior to use and depending on your situation a light table may be needed to inspect wraps.
There are solutions to help us get through this shortage, always remember your peer network as well as your sales representatives as they can help assist in securing product when things get rough. 2021 is starting to show promise during this pandemic and hopefully, our lives will return to normal where we don’t have to think about shortages of toilet paper and SMS wrap!