Under normal operations, NHRMC’s Supply Chain team ensures everything from paper towels to medical supplies is available across the health system.
In March, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) grew across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Supply Chain team undertook the daunting task of securing protective supplies. These PPE supplies help ensure teams can complete daily operations and help protect patients and staff from possible transmission of COVID-19.
During preparations for COVID-19 in the United States, the search for PPE became an increasing challenge for health systems due to widespread shortages. Early on, NHRMC’s Supply Chain team realized they only had a week’s worth of inventory as traditional supply sources were drying up.
“We started reaching out to different vendors,” said Kirk Wiedmeier, who oversees Supply Chain. “I really have a great team who did a lot of hard work and focused a lot of energy on looking at alternatives, setting up new vendors into our system.”
That might sound straightforward – but not when you consider the overwhelming volume of potential new vendors selling PPE, and that each one needed to be individually evaluated.
As some other health systems across the country were running into scams in the desperate search for PPE, NHRMC’s Supply Chain established criteria and worked hard to vet potential vendors to not only avoid losing money but to also prevent running out of the vital equipment.
“We found a lot of vendors were asking for money up front, and a lot of them had just started the week before trying to respond to this crisis,” Wiedmeier said. “My team did a lot of work behind the scenes to validate these vendors before we did any business with them, and then we were able to secure products and bring them in because the last thing we want to do is have the front-line staff worried about if they were going to have enough PPE to protect themselves.”
Wiedmeier feels fortunate to have avoided issues he’s heard some other healthcare organizations experienced. The process of securing enough PPE has taken a lot of teamwork within his department and with others. The data analytics team helped develop a COVID-19 PPE dashboard to track information such as the average consumption rate of PPE, supplies on hand, and upcoming orders. Leaders can consult the dashboard when making decisions.
“We’ve really developed a lot of cross functional relationships with some people we traditionally wouldn’t work with, and it’s been great to see team members and my staff members stepping up and doing what is needed,” he said.
Although NHRMC’s PPE supply inventory is good now, Wiedmeier knows his team must always be prepared for needs from the pandemic or a natural disaster, which could require his team to locate and order specific equipment at a moment’s notice.
It’s impractical to stockpile enough supplies to be prepared for every medical scenario. But the newly opened, fully operational Consolidated Service Center Warehouse will be beneficial in maintaining a good level of stock for NHRMC.
“The warehouse will really help us keep building our inventory levels to where we are not going to run out of PPE,” Wiedmeier said. “Our main purpose is to keep our staff, community and patients safe.”