Where do your gloves come from?
Western health services have been outsourcing the manufacturing of medical supplies. Ethical procurement policies can prevent health degradation of these workers
- By: Joshua Harvey, Charles Dearman
It seems absurd that to provide healthcare, Western health services are exploiting thousands of workers in developing countries. Our demand for cheap medical products means this dark irony is real.
Sialkot in northeast Pakistan produces 20%-25% of all stainless steel surgical instruments used in emergency departments and operating theatres worldwide.1 Ten million of these instruments are destined for the United Kingdom each year.2 Western healthcare systems have placed a huge global demand on factories to minimise costs, forcing some Sialkot manufacturers to reduce overheads by outsourcing to cheaper, cramped, and unventilated private buildings and garages.3 This outsourcing has led to reduced accountability for owners and a lack of transparency for the consumer, resulting in exploitation of workers.4
This lack of transparency means it is difficult to see the full extent of the problem. It is often impossible to trace production mechanisms and for Western suppliers to act accordingly. Swedwatch, a