Providers have power to help mistreated surgical equipment makers, study says: 6 insights

A new study argues public and private surgical equipment purchasers should hold manufacturers accountable for unethical labor conditions, Reuters Health News reports.

Boston-based Harvard Medical School researchers published the study in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Here are six takeaways:

1. Under pressure to produce high volumes at low costs, surgical equipment manufacturers move production to countries where labor laws are less regularly enforced and factory owners with little negotiating power are forced to accept exploitative contracts, the study said.

2. Two-thirds of all surgical instruments are made in Pakistan, where 50,000 employees work 80-plus hours a week for about $2 a day to make the instruments by hand. In India, child labor violations and 90-plus hour work weeks are common at healthcare product manufacturing plants.

3. Researchers said possible solutions to these labor issues include new policy development, advocacy efforts and education of clinical providers, hospital administration, vendors and suppliers.

4. Healthcare providers have the most power to influence suppliers, and physicians and staff members should discuss vendor selection practices with supply chain managers, the authors said.

5. The British Medical Association achieved large-scale ethical healthcare and surgical procurement through reports, watchdog partnerships and lobbying, according to the study.

6. The authors contend safe working conditions with fair pay can improve morale, product quality and worker retention without increasing costs for consumers.

Ethical Trading Initiative Head of Modern Slavery Strategy Cindy Berman told Reuters Health News, "Public bodies should be factoring into their buying decisions what their suppliers are saying and doing, to take into account of the modern slavery risks, child labor [and] forced labor risks in their supplier chain." Ms. Berman was not involved in the study.

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