U.S. Healthcare System Hits by Ukraine War

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The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has had a profound impact on the world and now has an effect on the U.S. healthcare system.

Russia and Ukraine are two of the major suppliers of ammonium and natural gas. After being refined, these gases can produce nitrous oxide (or laughing gas) and helium — both needed for millions of everyday medical procedures.

Nitrous oxide is used primarily by dental offices, making it crucial for procedures like root canals.

About 40% of ammonium nitrate — laughing gas’s source — comes from Russia. 

CBS reports thatPrices for gas are on the rise and it’s becoming more difficult to get. This could mean that practices will have to shut down or hire fewer patients.

Helium is vital for health care because it is crucial for body-imaging systems, such as MRIs.

“Helium is a terrific element for diffusing heat,”Bob Karcher is a Premier contract services executive who offers group buying services to providers. 

“It’s used in large MRIs and CTs, to draw heat away from the source.”

CBS reports that Russia now sends less natural gas to Western countries. This has prompted other countries to transport the gas via pipelines. 

Since natural gas conversion into liquid requires removing trace amounts of Helium, pipeline shipping can result in a reduction of the amount of Helium available.

This affects the overall helium supply and ultimately the price. 

“The shortages we are experiencing now have been years in the making and are therefore a surprise to no one,”Wally Hopp, an University of Michigan professor who is skilled in the medical supply chain, said so. 

Hopp believes that these issues could have been solved earlier by both the government and private sector. 

“But now they can only scramble to cope with the crisis with the health of American citizens at stake,”He said.