As efforts to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control continue, so do the impacts of this situation on dental practices particularly around PPE sourcing.
Infection control and prevention have been an important focus for many years, but more so now as we fight to suppress the spread of this nasty virus. Providing adequate protection for patients, staff, and yourself has required a whole new set of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and infection prevention procedures.
The World’s Biggest Game of Whack-a-Mole Begins
The urgent need for PPE items, coupled with a limited supply due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, created unique challenges early-on for dentists all over the world, as well as suppliers like Burkhart. A new shortage would pop up every few weeks. It was like a game of Whack-a-Mole searching for available products like N95 and KN95 respirators, face shields, disposable isolation gowns, hand sanitizers, surface disinfectants, exam gloves, and aerosol management systems. Each affected at different points in time, often quite abruptly. Several of these products have been around for a long time but weren’t popular in dentistry – until now! Demand went through the roof. Many of these items were now needed in retail, manufacturing, nursing homes, and food service environments – besides supporting front-line healthcare workers. Traditional sources of PPE brands our clients knew and trusted experienced considerable disruption due to virus-related issues, as well as raw material and labor shortages. Each time an unanticipated supply issue arose, the Burkhart team would pull out the Whack-a-Mole mallet to find our client’s solutions.
An Urgent Need – A Trustworthy Response
Burkhart quickly began cultivating non-traditional sources: sources that either had previously served non-dental markets or had strong import/export experience; and could encompass the supply of needed PPE to the dental market. Unfortunately, some shady characters also saw this as an opportunity to make fast money. They began selling counterfeit goods or legitimate goods of extremely poor-quality that did not perform as claimed and at highly inflated prices. Oftentimes, purchases from these non-traditional sources, with whom we had never done business before, required extremely large minimum order quantities and large sums of money paid in advance to lock in the order. So risks were very high.
At Burkhart, we believe our role is to assure you get products you can count on to perform as advertised, making them available at reasonable prices. Sorting out the legitimate, high-quality, properly-priced products from all of the rest slowed our ability to get you products worthy of your trust, but it did not stop us. We were, and continue to be, committed to being your source for high-quality PPE products delivering the protection they claim, and we will not reward those who would try to make unreasonable profits during these trying times.
Where Are We Today, and What Does the Future Hold?
Overall, we are in a much better situation now than in the earlier days of the pandemic. Burkhart is well-stocked with most essential PPE products from traditional manufacturer partners and reliable, well-vetted, non-traditional sources. Shipments of products from traditional manufacturer partners are beginning to increase for most PPE products. While happening less lately, there may still be times when you can’t get your preferred brand. But you should be able to get a high-quality alternative that will work until your preferred brand is back in stock. Two product areas we are watching closely are surface disinfectants and nitrile gloves. Most manufacturers of these products have recently experienced significant raw materials and labor disruptions. While supplies may remain tight for the next several months, manufacturers seem to be shipping enough to stay even with current demand. To do this, they are paying huge premiums to get the raw materials and labor they need. As a result, they see sharp rises in their costs. Largely these costs are being passed through the supply chain to end-users. These escalated prices should prove to be temporary and should begin returning to more reasonable levels as the pandemic abates and focus shifts from competing for production resources to competing for market share once again. To further assure these essential products are available for our clients, Burkhart has made large bulk purchases direct from factories around-the-world. We are also continuing to vet new sources as backups.
In the same way, the end of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918-19 gave way to the Roaring 20s; we can expect a strong rebound ahead. As COVID-19 vaccines are more widely deployed and their impact builds confidence and restores a degree of normalcy once again, we will see a great deal of pent-up demand for dental care among other delayed needs and wants in our lives. The future is bright. Burkhart is proud to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our clients. We are getting through these challenges successfully together – just as we did through every societal disruption since Burkhart was founded in 1888 – including world wars, recessions/depressions, and the pandemics of 1918 and today. Thank you to our wonderful clients for the trust and faith you place in Burkhart.
A letter from Bill Sundheimer, Burkhart Director of Merchandise
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