Supply disruptions from Hurricane Fiona will be minimal, experts say

Drug and medical devicemakers with operations in Puerto Rico are cautiously optimistic that Hurricane Fiona will cause few ripples across the medical supply chain.

The storm made landfall in Puerto Rico Sept. 18, causing severe flooding and leaving most people on the island without power or running water, The Washington Post reported. As of Sept. 21, only 26 percent of the island had power, according to CBS News.

Despite the severe storm damage, many drug and device companies with facilities on the island said they don't expect major supply chain disruptions.

"Many of our suppliers are reporting that they're fully operational, and the ones that aren't are resuming normal operations in the coming days," Kyle MacKinnon, senior director of operational excellence under Premier's supply chain strategic operations business unit, told Becker's Sept. 20.

Medtronic has four manufacturing sites and one office in Puerto Rico, along with a plant in the Dominican Republic, which Hurricane Fiona also hit Sept. 19. The company said there hasn't been significant damage to its facilities, and all of its sites are currently operational. 

"Manufacturing has been restarted at all our facilities with some staff reduction due to employee availability, which we expect to improve significantly over the coming days," a Medtronic spokesperson told Becker's Sept. 20.

Baxter International, a major U.S. supplier of IV bags, has multiple manufacturing sites on the island. 

"We are optimistic about our ability to return to normal operations in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in the coming days," company spokesperson Lauren Russ told Politico Sept. 20. "Our ability to restart operations is dependent on roads and bridges being accessible and employees being able to return to work."

Eli Lilly also told Becker's there have been no disruptions to its drug manufacturing site on the island or supply levels.

The situation is in sharp contrast to 2017, when Hurricane Maria shut down operations at nearly 50 drug plants on the island, leading to a shortage of IV bags, among other medical products and drugs

"I think by and large, our suppliers are much [more] well-positioned to manage the effects of this hurricane versus nearly five years ago," said Mr. MacKinnon, who leads Premier's supply disruption program that spans several business units. After Hurricane Maria, many companies diversified their supply chains and developed continuity plans to respond to power outages, facility damage or other potential issues, he said.

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