|Behind the Scenes: Supply Chain Managers Work to Keep Hawaii's Healthcare Workers Safe|
As the COVID-19 Pandemic has
changed the world over the past few months, one area of healthcare has been
working behind the scenes to support and manage the essential personal
protective equipment (PPE) utilized by frontline healthcare workers throughout
the islands. The Supply Chain Management
personnel at hospitals, physician and dental offices, and surgical centers in
Hawaii have been scrambling and working around the clock combing through
supplier networks, building up local stockpiles and organizing community
donations in attempts to bolster their supply of PPE to protect those in
healthcare that are most at risk. At
three local hospital organizations, Adventist Health Castle, Hawaii Pacific
Health and The Queen’s Health Systems, increases in front line demand for PPE
have spiked since the start of the Pandemic.
Prior to COVID-19, the need for
specialty N95 masks and face shields was relatively low and mostly in pharmaceutical
compounding areas and airborne isolation rooms.
At Adventist Health Castle, Brian Kay, Director of Supply Chain
Management, reported a nearly 1200% increase in utilization of N95 masks and
face shields specifically during the highest points of COVID-19
hyper-awareness. To cope with the
increased demand and subsequent need for warehouse space, Kay and Adventist
Health Castle Leadership commandeered the hospital auditorium to store
essential supplies and PPE in the event a spike in cases occurred. COVID-19-unit setup exercises and supply burn
rate reporting in addition to normal operations have become the new normal as
Kay and his team work to keep Castle’s workers safe.
Corey Au, Director of Supply Chain
and Strategic Sourcing at The Queen’s Health Systems, has seen a major increase
in both demand for PPE at QHS facilities and prices for those supplies. With suppliers struggling to keep up with
demand, Au has seen prices for N95’s increase by as much as 900%. “We used to
pay $0.52 for N95,” Au stated, but “now we pay between $3.50 and $4.70 a
mask”. Demand and pricing for surgical
masks have also increased. Prior to the
pandemic Queen’s paid around $.07 per mask.
With backorders across the board with original suppliers, Queen’s and
other health systems have had to look to China for sourcing at prices as much
as 1200% above normal. Community
donations have been helpful. Queen’s has received great support from local
organizations and individuals. In
addition to normal operations during the week, supply chain managers at Queen’s
Punchbowl have been spending weekends sorting, cataloging and distributing
donations to the various units throughout the hospital. To accommodate the new higher levels of PPE
required in preparation for COVID-19, Queen’s also was able to build out
additional secured warehouse space on campus for PPE and supplies.
Hawaii Pacific Health’s initial
surge in usage of PPE associated with COVID-19 has given way to a slowdown.
According to Dave Stumbaugh, Vice President of Supply Chain Management, “burn
rates are actually lower than March due to elective procedures being shut down
and then slowly ramping up”. HPH, which
operates its own medical supplies warehouse on O‘ahu, has benefitted from not
needing to procure additional warehouse space to store PPE and essential
With such a heavy focus on
hospitals and first responders, the Hawai’i dental community has had difficulty
getting their hands on necessary protective equipment. Jason Ching D.D.S, a
pediatric dentist in Pearl City, has taken matters into his own hands. He
organized a group of over 70 local dentists in partnership with physician
groups and hospital partners to provide a means for small dental practices to
take part in bulk purchasing of PPE and supplies normally inaccessible to
individual practices. Though most dental
offices closed during the lockdown order in Hawaii to all but the most emergent
procedures, elective procedures are beginning again, and the need for protective
equipment for staff is greater than ever.
Almost all dental procedures create aerosolized oral particles at close
range that create an elevated risk of transmission for Dentists, Dental
Hygienists and Assistants.
Many of the changes that have accompanied health care
facilities’ responses to the Pandemic will remain in place for some time.
Extensive use of PPE is definitely among these. Continued innovation and
adjustment to ever-changing circumstances will be essential if healthcare
providers of all types and sizes are to meet this need effectively. The behind
the scenes work of all of those involved in Supply Chain Management plays a
crucial role with helping to keep our health care workers, patients, and the