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AmCham Shanghai Discusses Impact of COVID-19 on China Healthcare Companies
On February 14, AmCham Shanghai’s Healthcare Committee held a conference call to discuss the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic on China healthcare businesses (see original article). Ten executives participated in the call, noting that distribution has been adversely affected, staff shortages are widespread, patient visits to hospitals are paradoxically lower, staff morale declined and profits would be affected in the first quarter and possibly beyond. The discussion was moderated by ChinaBio's Greg Scott, the Chair of AmCham Shanghai’s Healthcare Committee. AmCham Shanghai printed a summary of the discussion, which ChinaBio® Today has reprinted below with their permission.
COVID-19’s Impact on the Healthcare Industry
AmCham Shanghai’s Healthcare Committee held a conference call on February 14 to discuss how the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has impacted healthcare businesses, and the key challenges facing companies during this uncertain time. Ten top executives from member companies participated in the call to share their insights and experiences. The discussion is moderated by Greg Scott, the Chair of AmCham Shanghai’s Healthcare Committee.
Executives noted that in the pharmaceutical sector, distribution had become difficult in recent weeks, as travel restrictions and staff shortages have disrupted supply chains. Among them, one pharmaceutical company shared that delivering products to other cities and provinces, including Wuhan, has become especially difficult due to travel closures. The problem is also compounded by a lack of staff; the week of February 10th, this company’s distribution center had only 15% of its staff working.
Leaders from major Shanghai hospitals noted that patient volume has dramatically dropped since the outbreak and that some hospitals have faced staffing constraints and currently offer reduced hours and/or closed some facilities. The major priority for healthcare providers has been to keep staff morale up and ensure they continue to have adequate personal protective equipment. On the patient side, elective surgeries have been postponed, and many in need of care for chronic illnesses or other non-acute medical needs have avoided going to the hospital, reducing patient volume significantly. Both hospital and pharmaceutical leaders said they have been working to determine how best to support these patients who may access to health care services and medicines but do want to go to the hospital for fear of cross-contamination.
Companies that produce medical supplies, in particular protection items such as masks and gloves, are seeing a significant increase in demand, impacting manufacturing and distribution globally. They have come under greater spotlight and government oversight since the outbreak began. At the local level, government control of production and inventory has left less control to company headquarters. One of the resulting issues is that they are not always in control of where their products are ultimately delivered to patients.
Like companies in other sectors, many healthcare businesses have implemented flexible working schedules for sales and other office staff to allow people to work from home, where practical. Unfortunately, in healthcare services and medical product distribution and manufacturing, there is generally a requirement that the staff be on site.
Looking at their revenues, multiple executives noted that they expect to take a financial hit in the first quarter, with some saying the pain could last further into the year and significantly impact 2020 forecasts. However, some leaders noted that they remained optimistic that revenues would bounce back later in the year. Despite the clear challenges created by the outbreak, many said that there remained opportunities for new ways to serve customers, including increased forms of e-commerce in healthcare and for doctors and nurses to give online consultations or to speak on social media.
Throughout the recent COVID-19 epidemic, AmCham Shanghai has remained in constant communication with top-line executives in healthcare and other sectors to offer up to date information and policy and to learn more about the challenges companies are facing. We will continue to bring members the latest news and expert perspective on the epidemic and to offer communication and support during this difficult period.