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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An aluminum shortage tied to the global supply chain crunch has led to a new medical supply shortage: crutches.

Why it matters: The latest example of pandemic-spurred medical supply chain problems could become a much bigger problem in the next couple of months which are typically the busiest time of the year for orthopedic surgeries.

  • That's because many people try to squeeze their surgeries before the end of the year before their deductibles reset in January.

Driving the news: Delays due to worker shortages in China's ports are mostly to blame for the backlog, Kim Anders, group vice president for strategic supplier engagement at group purchasing organization Premier told Axios.

  • But, bigger raw material shortages in magnesium, which is used to harden aluminum alloy, could also ripple across the supply chain including the auto and building industries, Bloomberg reported.

State of play: In some places, hospitals have begun asking their communities for donations this month.

  • On Monday, Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health, Steward Health and the Utah Hospital Association announced a donation drive called "LeanOnUtah" to collect metal crutches, walkers, canes and non-motorized wheelchairs, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
  • Joey Kamerath, senior medical director for rehabilitation services at Intermountain Healthcare, said the department's supply chain has run "completely dry," per the Tribune.
  • Earlier this month, Charleston Area Medical Center in West Virginia and Southeast Georgia Health System in Georgia put out similar calls for help in their communities.

The bottom line: "It's hit all suppliers across the board," Anders said.

  • While it originally seemed the supply problem would improve by November, she said it now looks like "December is when we're going to start seeing some relief."

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Dec 6, 2021 - Economy & Business

A big part of America's supply chain is for sale

Illustration: Allie Carl, Sarah Grillo/Axios

America's supply chain crisis is a series of intersecting bottlenecks, including insufficient labor and warehouse space, all driven by surging U.S. consumer behavior. But one piece has gotten short-shift on the attention meter: Chassis, the steel frames on which trucks carry shipping containers.

Driving the news: Apollo Global Management is seeking a buyer for Direct ChassisLink, the largest U.S. intermodal chassis provider, as first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed by Axios.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

House passes annual defense bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted to pass the annual defense bill 363-70 on Tuesday night, authorizing nearly $770 billion in funding for defenses and national security programs.

Why it matters: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) still has to clear the Senate, but the House passage greatly increases the chances that the must-pass defense bill will move through both chambers of Congress before the end of the year.