While most of the nation was stockpiling essential items and food in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care supply chain teams were strategizing how to ensure clinicians and health care workers had the personal protective equipment (PPE) and instruments, which were in high demand, needed to care for the critically ill safely and effectively.
Supply chain team members have been the silent heroes of the pandemic as they have managed various moving parts behind the scenes and below the hospital floors. They are generally found procuring and distributing products from the receiving dock to the hands of the clinician. After having faced the previous Ebola and H1N1 pandemics, the team was prepared, but the surge proved more than anticipated.
"There is always a much discussion and preparation regarding the next pandemic, so you try and prepare for it but in the past, it never really came to fruition as was anticipated," says Shawn Leo, supply chain materials manager at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. "COVID-19 is the real deal in the way that it impacted health care and taxed the supply chain. It created an overwhelming surge in just a matter of weeks."
Shawn Leo, supply chain materials manager, standing inside Sharp Chula Vista's Central Supply where critical equipment is stored.
As the health crisis escalated, supply chain teams had to reassess and modify their orders from manufacturing companies that were increasing their production to meet the needs of health care systems nationwide. Sharp HealthCare's system office played a significant role in distributing critical supply to the different entities serving San Diego County.
"We have to ensure that everybody throughout the Sharp organization has what they need," Leo says. "It has affected not just PPE but other supplies as well. Our goal is to fill those internal needs as quickly as possible without compromising the quality of patient care."
A variety of complex challenges arose, but Leo's team managed through the crisis and built a resilience roadmap to place them in a stronger position to fortify future surges of the coronavirus.
"The cooperation and exceptional leadership at Sharp's system office and Sharp Chula Vista really made conservation efforts a priority to ensure the availability of PPE first and foremost for our clinicians," says Leo. "Our chief nursing officer at the time, Christine Basiliere, helped us in the beginning of the pandemic to get us in the mindset to become more disciplined in our supply usage. We did so much upfront to make sure we had availability in the days to come."