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COVID-19 data-driven monitoring in Ukraine: how much do gloves cost?

This post is part of our ongoing content on COVID-19 emergency procurement. The civic procurement monitoring initiative DOZORRO and Transparency International Ukraine have analyzed the demand and prices of medical gloves in Ukraine in 2020, using ProZorro’s open contracting data and OCDS-based business intelligence tool. With a global shortage of gloves, it is critical to keep prices transparent to avoid potential manipulation by procuring entities and speculation by suppliers. The Ukrainian approach is a great example of how the disclosure and use of open contracting data can help manage such risks.

Learn more about our recommendations for keeping emergency procurement open, fast, and smart, with data collection and disclosure, and read our guidance on using contracting data to monitor COVID-19 procurement

Protecting healthcare workers should be a top priority in the fight against the epidemic. However, in Ukraine, more than a thousand medical workers have been infected with COVID-19. According to YouControl, not all primary hospitals are sufficiently equipped with personal protective equipment, including medical gloves. Transparency International Ukraine investigated how gloves have been procured through ProZorro in 2020 and in what quantities.

Types of gloves

Medical gloves are meant to protect medical staff and patients from exposure to dangerous substances. There are two main types of medical gloves, depending on the application: examination (diagnostic) and surgical. Surgical gloves are made in more precise sizes; they are thicker, stronger and longer than examination gloves. They are used for more dangerous procedures.

Vinyl, latex and nitrile are commonly used for manufacturing medical gloves. Gloves made from natural rubber (latex) are the most popular, because this material is particularly strong and elastic. Its main drawback is that it can cause allergic reactions. 

Nitrile gloves are primarily an alternative to latex gloves, since they are neutral to the skin and more resistant to mechanical punctures. 

Medical gloves made of vinyl are used to work with chemicals in medicine. This year, fewer than 15 purchases of vinyl gloves have been made through Prozorro, so we did not include them in this analysis.

How many medical gloves have been purchased through Prozorro

As of April 20, almost 21 million pairs of medical gloves worth UAH 68.6 million (around USD 2.5 million) have been purchased in Ukraine via Prozorro. Most purchases were for latex examination gloves — 10.1 million pairs (48% of the total number), followed by 9.6 million pairs of nitrile examination gloves (46%) and 1.3 million pairs of surgical gloves (6%).  

In the first three weeks of April, public procuring entities bought 6.5 million pairs of medical gloves for UAH 27.6 million, in March — 5.7 million pairs for UAH 19 million, in February — 6.3 million pairs for UAH 16.3 million, and in January — 2.5 million for UAH 5.7 million.

The number of tenders announced on Prozorro has increased every month. In January, 108 purchases of medical gloves were made, in February – 301, in March — 747, and from April 1 to 20 — 739. It is worth noting that gloves, especially in the last few months, are purchased not only by hospitals. There are many new procuring entities interested in them: utility companies, the police, the border service, and so on. 

While in January and February 2020, customers bought medical gloves mainly through competitive procedures (pre-threshold procurement, open bidding), in March and April, it was mainly done by entering into direct contracts, primarily through the designated COVID-19 procedure. 

Prices of gloves

We studied the median prices for various types of gloves. This is a more suitable indicator of the general price trend, because it is less sensitive to bias in the presence of an abnormally high price than the average price. Thus, the price fluctuation can be established more objectively.

Prices for medical gloves in January–April 2020:

MonthLatex examination glovesNitrile examination glovesSurgical gloves
JanuaryUAH 1.2–2.4UAH 1.3–2.7UAH 3.9–9.3 
FebruaryUAH 1.6–3.1 UAH 1.4–4.4UAH 4.5–13
MarchUAH 1.4–3.7UAH 2.1–4.1UAH 3.9–14.8
AprilUAH 3–4.7UAH 4.3–5.4UAH 5.4–10.8

Suppliers: Same gloves, different prices

According to our calculations, MK MEDGROUP LLC is the largest supplier of medical gloves. In January–April 2020, the company signed 37 contracts for the supply of 1.5 million medical gloves for UAH 5.1 million total. MK MEDGROUP LLC was founded in 2016 by Liudmyla Lytkova. The company specializes in the sale of pharmaceutical products. MK MEDGROUP actively participates in public procurement. In 2019-2020, the company participated in 493 tenders, which resulted in 272 contracts for UAH 95 million. 

This company mainly supplies medical gloves of the Medicare brand (Dopomoha-I LLC), but the prices are slightly different. During April, the company signed 10 contracts for the supply of gloves via Prozorro, and each customer had a different price. For example, MK MEDGROUP LLC sold 5,300 nitrile examination gloves to a Kyiv hospital for UAH 7 per item, and the next day, it sold 6,000 pairs of the same gloves to a Kharkiv hospital for UAH 5 per item.

The second biggest supplier is Medical Center M.T.K. In January-April 2020, it signed 107 contracts for the supply of medical gloves for a total amount of UAH 4.5 million.

Medical Center M.T.K. was founded in 1994 and specializes in wholesale trade in pharmaceutical products. According to Youcontrol, the company is a member of the group (one of the founders) of the Yuria-Pharm Corporation. 

Medical Center M.T.K. is an active public procurement participant. In 2019–2020, the firm took part in 3,931 tenders, 3,196 of which were successful, with the total amount of UAH 688 million. The company supplies pharmaceutical products and medical equipment. 

According to our calculations, in April, Medical Center M.T.K. concluded 26 agreements for the supply of medical gloves. Analysis of these tenders showed that the highest price for gloves was three times greater than the lowest price among the different procuring entities. We contacted some of them to find out what gloves were supplied by Medical Center M.T.K. Most of the surveyed procuring entities replied that the manufacturer of gloves is the company “Yuria-Pharm”; some of the procuring entities refused to answer and suggested that we send them a written request.

The last purchases were made by O.S. Lunacharskyi Kherson City Clinical  Hospital and Shostka Municipal Primary Healthcare Center. The supplier may have sold them gloves with different technical characteristics, which are actually more expensive. These two procuring entities refused to provide information about the purchase over the phone. A representative of the Kherson hospital promised to provide a response on April 23. We prepared a written information request to Shostka Municipal Primary Healthcare Center. At the time of publication, neither facility had provided a response.

It is worth noting that Medical Center M.T.K. supplies not only medical gloves to public procuring entities with major price differences. Nashi Hroshi wrote about the major fluctuation of prices for linezolid-based Linelid antibiotics supplied by Medical Center M.T.K.

Methodology: BI Prozorro, filters, sample

The procurement of medical gloves was downloaded from the public business intelligence module: the period of data download is April 1 – April 20, 2020, the search request included variations of the keyword “gloves.” After downloading the data, a filter was set to exclude procurement of non-medical gloves: construction gloves, textile gloves, household gloves, etc. After that, information on each tender was manually entered into an Excel spreadsheet. It should be noted that when data from the sample was processed, we excluded the tenders for medical gloves without a specification or necessary information on the procurement item. In the course of analysis, we identified that public procuring entities mostly purchased latex examination gloves, nitrile examination gloves, and, less frequently, surgical gloves. 

At the final stage, a summary table was created with information about the quantity and price of medical gloves, suppliers and procuring entities.

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