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Supply chain issue impacts home care providers

HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. — From bathroom aids to hospital beds, Dressen Medical Supply is a staple for at-home patient care in the Triangle.

 

What You Need To Know

Dressen Medical Supply is located in Holly Springs

The home care industry is seeing a minimum delay of four to six weeks on power mobility devices

Ed Dressen says he is seeing an increase in the cost of certain items as high as 50%

 

Ed Dressen opened his Holly Springs store front in 2003, but has been in the medical supply and home care industry for 41 years.

“It’s a very rewarding business. We help others recover from injuries and illness and make them feel better,” Dressen said.

However, over the last year and a half, the supply chain crisis has thrown a wrench in his operation. Dressen says it’s caused delays like he’s never seen before.

“I’ve always been able to make a phone call and get it in a short amount of time. I’ve never had to plan out weeks and months ahead of time to get the supplies,” Dressen explained.

Dressen says items like power scooters and power mobility devices went from a two to three-day delivery period to four to six weeks.

“Some scooters on order since mid-summer, for the customers that are waiting for them, and it’s delaying their availability to use them to increase their mobility needs,” Dressen said.

Dressen says it’s become a waiting game.

“They have been able to increase their production but it’s all related to COVID. If a plant has an outbreak, they have to shut down,” Dressen said.

He says one manufacturer he works with has a minimum delivery time of six to eight weeks on lift chairs.

“Sometimes [I] have to check with multiple vendors to see if they’re available, then we have to hope the freight companies are going to show up with them on a timely basis,” Dressen said.

For the items that are in stock, like wheelchairs, Dressen has stocked up on.  

“I’ve ordered extra just so I have it because I am afraid I’m not going to be able to get it in a couple of weeks, depending on what’s happening,” Dressen said.

For people whose livelihood depends on this type of equipment, waiting is not always an option. Items like hospital beds have been increasingly difficult to get in stock.

“Most people want to go home, they don’t want to be in the insulation and they want to be near their loved ones, especially around the time passing away and they want to be around everyone. They want to be home, and with the shortages we have, we don’t have the beds available and I’ve had that issue where I do not have the beds available at that time,” Dressen said.

However, the industry is seeing certain items make their way back to shelves, like bathroom aids.

“We’ve gotten those back in stock and we’re not having a problem with the bathroom aids that we were having before,” Dressen said.

In addition to shortages, Dressen says the cost of materials are up 10% to 30% on certain items, and some are as high as 50%.

His medical supply store also repairs equipment, and he says the cost of getting the materials to make those necessary repairs is also skyrocketing.

“Aluminum and steel have gone up over 50% for manufactures,” Dressen said.

As a medical supplier, Dressen’s business is primarily reimbursed by set rates from Medicare and insurance carriers. This means he is taking the hit for the increase in cost of materials.

“The manufacturer is passing it over to the provider and we are reimbursed by set rates with Medicare, insurance carries and they have not increased our rates, so as a home medical equipment provider, we’re faced with these extra costs of business but we are not being reimbursed fairly for that,” Dressen said.

Despite these challenges, Dressen says his work is essential in ensuring his patients are getting the proper equipment they need to recover from an injury or live comfortably at home.

“One of the things that makes it very rewarding because we don’t see it through the reimbursement standpoint and we get a loved one or a caretaker to stop us and say how appreciative they are of what we do in making their loved one feel better,” Dressen said. 

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