MILWAUKEE -- Advocate Aurora Health announced on Tuesday, May 26 that it has partnered with health care improvement company Premier Inc. to acquire a minority stake in Prestige Ameritech, the largest domestic manufacturer of face masks, including N95 respirators and surgical masks.
A news release says Advocate Aurora Health is among 15 nationwide joining this initiative to invest in domestic and geographically diverse manufacturing aimed at ensuring a robust and resilient supply chain for essential medical products.
"Pre-pandemic, you could get those masks for less than 50 cents on a global supply chain," said Rick Klein with Advocate Aurora Health. "During the pandemic, the cost of those masks went up over $5."
When COVID-19 hit, area hospitals could not get personal protective equipment (PPE) fast enough and bidding wars for PPE always resulted in someone being left shorthanded.
"Ever since this pandemic began, and many other health systems, have been scavenging the globe for PPE, and being able to establish a global supply chain," Klein said.
However, for Advocated Aurora Health, the joining with large health systems nationwide allows the health care provider to go straight to the source as a partial stakeholder of Prestige Ameritech.
"Not only does that secure U.S. supply, but it also secures an opportunity for six years of expansion of that supply," said Klein.
In addition to an equity investment, the release indicates Advocate Aurora Health will commit to purchase a portion of all masks used annually from Prestige Ameritech for up to six years, inclusive of a three-year renewal option. They will also have the ability to offer feedback to improve those products.
"It gives us an opportunity to redesign PPE so it can match what we're getting from our team members about advice on how masks fit, how shields fit, and things like that," Klein said.
The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.