Faced with hundreds of millions of orders a day, and a limited number of masks, Prestige Ameritech decided to sell only to hospitals, rather than the general public, and has prioritized working with medical centers that will sign five-year contracts, to reduce the likelihood that the company will have to lay off all its new employees once the pandemic subsides.
The policy is rooted in history. The last time the country faced a comparable mask shortage was during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. To meet increased demand, Prestige Ameritech hired hundreds of new employees and expanded its manufacturing capabilities. But after the outbreak died down, Bowen says that most hospitals that had relied on Prestige Ameritech went back to Chinese suppliers, which typically sell masks and respirators for less than it costs him to produce.
“In 2011, after the H1N1 pandemic ended, we had to lay off 150 people,” he recalls. “One hundred fifty people that saved a lot of hospitals from closing their doors were rewarded by losing their jobs. And that's not going to happen again.”Best wishes to Prestige, and to all of us. (Psst, supply agreements work.)