Coronavirus and the Ever-Important Hospital Supply Chain

The novel coronavirus pandemic brought about a global rush on isolation gowns, face masks and respirators and other personal protective equipment It caused shortages, brought forth scams and forced hospital supply chain management into public light.

by Eric Scicchitano, The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa. / June 2, 2020
AP
 
(TNS) - Cathy Kline made a career out of sourcing supplies for Evangelical Community Hospital but she never expected to purchase plastic face shields from an auto parts supplier.

The novel coronavirus pandemic brought about a global rush on isolation gowns, face masks and respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE). It caused shortages, brought forth scams and forced hospital supply chain management into public light.

Kline is Evangelical’s logistics and distribution manager. She is part of a team of five employees in the hospital’s Supply Chain Services division. Kline’s role is essential. When Evangelical was forced to furlough employees and require others to work from home, Kline and company continued to report to the hospital to monitor, order and source the necessities for Evangelical’s operations.

“I think the most challenging part of my job is to secure the PPE we need to keep our patients and coworkers safe,” Kline, of Selinsgrove, said. “It’s a challenge worldwide. It’s not just here, it’s everywhere.”

Evangelical’s CEO and president, Kendra Aucker, complimented the hospital’s supply chain team in media briefings during the pandemic. She’s expressed confidence on several occasions when asked about Evangelical’s inventory of PPE, and she’s underscored the importance of being proactive in acquisition and judicious in use.

“As you come back up with your (operating rooms), you start using more PPE,” Aucker said in late April as Evangelical approached the resumption of elective procedures. “They’ll shut operations back down in the region if it begins to spike because you do burn through your PPE when you open up operating rooms.”

Kline said the Supply Chain Services team monitors PPE inventory daily. It’s done in concert with the management of other divisions within the hospital. They review what’s on hand, what’s on order and what’s en route for delivery.

The N95 respirator proves the most challenging item to source, Kline said.
The mask fits tightly to the face and reduces the wearer’s exposure to airborne particulates, filtering at least 95 percent of those particulates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The main transmission threat from the novel coronavirus is person-to-person through respiratory droplets, the CDC states.

Kline continues working with the hospital’s traditional supply chain network but the pandemic forced her department to look beyond those established relationships. Donations from the community have been plentiful including those hard-to-find N95 respirators from individuals and businesses. The plain community joined in donating cloth masks and handmade isolation gowns made from construction material, the latter of which Kline said is kept as an emergency resource.

Bucknell University engineering faculty and students created PPE like face shields. Kline said other businesses did the same via 3D printing. As the hospital sought more shields, Kline was led to contact NAPA Auto Parts.

“We were able to secure them,” Kline said. “It’s not anywhere where we would have looked.”
Kline is a member of the Hospital Incident Command team. It responds to all emergencies within the hospital, whether it’s a global pandemic or local mass-injury incidents like multi-vehicle accidents on Valley highways. She trains with the rest of the team in emergency preparedness as supplies are part of the response.

Kline credited the hospital’s leadership team with establishing and maintaining a flow of information on COVID-19 and its risks. She also credited her coworkers in Supply Chain Services with making sure Evangelical has what it needs for all incidents.

“We’ve been very fortunate with the group of people we have working on it. We’re all very good at our jobs and we’ve been able, with a lot of brainstorming and being proactive, to secure PPE and other items,” Kline said.
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©2020 The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pa.)
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