FRANKFURT (Reuters) — A shortage of dye for medical scans produced by General Electric’s health care unit in China is affecting regions beyond the United States, with a German hospital now being warned of a supply squeeze.
GE Healthcare, through a spokesperson, said Wednesday that the weeks-long outage at the company’s Shanghai production plant due to the city’s COVID-19 lockdown is not only affecting U.S. hospitals but also other world regions it did not specify, though to a lesser extent.
Some of the largest U.S. hospitals have prepared this week for critical shortages and the GE unit has responded by increasing the output of contract agents at its factory in Ireland and sending products by air freight to meet demand.
The association of German hospitals told Reuters on Wednesday that one of its members had been alerted by the GE unit that its contrast agent could go out of stock in June, citing the Shanghai outage.
A hospitals association spokesperson did not provide further details and said it was uncertain whether diagnostics procedures would have to be canceled or to what degree the affected hospital could draw on inventories.
“We are working around the clock to expand capacity of our iodinated contrast media products, including drawing on our global manufacturing network,” the GE spokesperson said, adding the business would keep customers informed.
Dr. Geoff Rubin is the clinical service chief of medical imaging.
A guest of NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Thursday, he says that, luckily, radiologists have a number of methods they can revert to in performing imaging and that this shortage in particular merely limits their capabilities rather than stopping them completely.
“This shortage of iodinated contrast material is akin to having a photograph that is in black and white as opposed to color. We can still use CT scanning to see many things, but some of the things that are really dependent on those color differences require us to use other tools such as ultrasound or MRI,” Rubin said.
Rubin went on to say that procedures shouldn’t have to be postponed and that the preparation and awareness of the shortage has allowed them to assure they are taking care of patients the best way possible.
“The priority is placed on the most urgent problems and the people that need to have the contrast-enhanced studies will have that. There isn’t a complete succession in the availability of the contrast material, it’s just a reduction in the availability.” Rubin said.
GE said this week the Shanghai facility has now reopened after several weeks of closure due to local COVID policies but is not yet fully up to speed.
Bayer, which competes with GE Healthcare in contrast media, has said it is not facing a similar situation and that it was taking measures to supply “incremental volumes” to ease shortages.