“Out of necessity, many hospitals have had to turn to alternative sources for gloves. We have heard reports of price gouging, missing shipments and fraud. The guide was developed to help Vizient members safely navigate the nontraditional glove broker market.” — David Gillan, Vizient senior vice president, sourcing operations

In hospitals and other health care settings across the country, the need for critical personal protective equipment (PPE) has not waned since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While PPE shortages across certain product categories have lessened, a shrinking supply of nitrile gloves has become a growing concern.

Stories of hospitals paying high prices and sometimes winding up with counterfeit or faulty gloves (or none at all) mean that navigating nontraditional, unvetted brokers may be necessary but also requires caution.

“Early in the pandemic, we began to see a proliferation of nontraditional glove brokers trying to resell gloves for a profit,” says David Gillan, Vizient senior vice president, sourcing operations. “We quickly saw the dangers of fraud and abuse among these nontraditional sources and stood up an alternative supplier vetting process and other resources to stem the tide.”

To help members navigate the market, Vizient recently developed a guide for members (pdf download) that outlines important steps and considerations for choosing nontraditional glove brokers. Here are three considerations outlined in the guide:

  1. Investigate the product—With so many new entrants to the glove market, do your homework on any new brokers before doing business with them. Vizient’s COVID-19 Noncontracted Alternative Manufacturers Database for members (xlsx download) is a good place to start. The database contains listings for thousands of PPE products, including nitrile gloves.

Ask a broker for copies of the FDA 510k premarket submission associated with the gloves sold, as well as samples of the products. Samples should be provided in their original packaging and packaging should be labeled according to guidelines in the Medical Glove Guidance Manual published by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Brokers should include language guarantee that the gloves delivered will be the same as the sample products. For example, language could state that the purchaser has a certain number of days to inspect the product once it arrives prior to payment. If they find that the product is not exactly the same as the samples were, then they don’t need to pay and tell the supplier to come get them.

Contact the glove manufacturers directly whenever possible. Several noncontracted manufacturers, including Cranberry and Hartalega, offer guidance and warnings about nontraditional brokers on their websites.

  1. Vet brokers carefully—Look to other health care organizations for broker references. Focus on brokers with a brick-and-mortar U.S. presence and an established history of working with health care organizations. Verify with the manufacturer that the broker is authorized to sell their product.

If the broker provides an estimated time of arrival (ETA) for a glove shipment, remember it is only an estimate. Foreign and domestic ports are overwhelmed with shipments, so brokers are unable to accurately predict or guarantee when products will arrive at ports for a final destination delivery.

  1. Get it in writing—Details of an agreement with a broker should be documented in writing and signed by both parties. Review the agreement with legal counsel prior to signature. Consider including the following terms in an agreement:
  • Payment terms: Many brokers ask for full or partial payment upon placing an order. Payment terms should specify making the payment after products have been delivered and inspected by the member.
  • Firm pricing: When entering into an agreement where gloves will be delivered at intervals, confirm whether agreed-upon pricing will remain firm for the duration of deliveries. At a minimum, negotiate a 60-day firm price on gloves and make sure this is documented in the agreement.
  • Inspection: Negotiate a reasonable amount of time to inspect the shipment after arrival. Consider partnering with your distributor to manage the product’s inspection, unloading, warehousing and redistribution.

Expanding access to critical PPE

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vizient has made significant capital investments and commitments with PPE manufacturers ensure access to critical supplies for members. The Novaplus® Enhanced Supply Program provides members with supply assurance through globally diversified manufacturing and U.S.-based stockpiles. In addition, new strategic partnership agreements with Encompass, Standard Textile and Prestige help expand production capacity and enable Vizient members to access to some of the most sought after PPE. Vizient has also worked with a number of contracted and noncontracted manufacturers, including Ford, WildCat and Hanes, to help expand capacity for several essential PPE products. 

“Throughout the pandemic, our COVID-19 disaster response team has listened to member needs and worked to find solutions to their critical supply shortages,” adds Gillan. “That work continues today.”

Using long-standing supplier relationships and sourcing expertise, Vizient sourced an additional 400 million gloves for members last year. With nitrile gloves expected to remain in high demand this year due to limited raw materials, ongoing high COVID-19 case rates and global vaccination efforts now underway, Vizient recently sourced an additional 420 million gloves to help meet member needs.

Additional tools and resources to support PPE needs

The glove market will likely remain unpredictable for another 18 months or so. If working with a nontraditional glove broker becomes necessary, use the guide to make sure you’re choosing a partner wisely.

Vizient’s COVID-19 disaster response team continues to develop comprehensive tools and resources to meet members’ critical supply needs. A PPE Conservation Impact Calculator for members helps quantify the impact of different PPE conservation strategies by incorporating patient volume and complexity and staffing ratios that can affect PPE use. In addition, an Exam Glove Conservation resource highlights three levels of surge capacity along with conservation measures.

For support identifying vetted and contracted solutions to the nitrile glove shortage and other PPE product needs, complete our online COVID-19 Product Supply Assistance Request Form and a sourcing expert will contact you to learn more and try to find a source for the needed PPE. 

Published: February 23, 2021