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Safety Begins with The Supply Chain

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By:

Bri Rogers

June 4, 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put a major strain on every hospital’s supply chain. Sustaining medical supplies such as N95 and ear loop masks, surgical ties, gowns, powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) head covers, face shields, and more is crucial for ensuring the safety of those within GBMC’s walls. Brian Riemer, Director of Supply Chain at GBMC HealthCare, has always worked closely with suppliers and logistics partners to secure materials and mitigate any potential disruption to the delivery of supplies. Brian and his team faced some of the most difficult challenges they’ve ever had during the pandemic, but they have been able to keep GBMC stocked with necessary supplies despite shortages and delays.

As the global supply chain experienced massive disruptions, Brian and his team had to anticipate how the disruptions would impact GBMC and take proactive measures to prevent shortages of critical materials such as surgical drapes, sanitizing wipes, and sterilization packaging. The scale of these shortages was unlike anything the team had ever encountered, and it forced them to find creative ways to ensure the organization’s needs were met. While this experience has been extremely stressful for the Supply Chain team, it has also been very gratifying. “Whether it was setting up an assembly team to make 15,000 face shields, working with a hospital patron to source artificial sweetener for testing the fit of N95 masks, or sourcing hand sanitizer from a local distillery, it has been rewarding to keep the supplies flowing,” Brian said.

When asked why it is so important for the hospital to have a seven-day supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand at all times, Brian expressed, “we strive to keep at least a week of inventory on hand for our supplies. This is known as our ‘safety stock’ that prevents us from reaching a critical supply level. For items that have a lot of uncertainty, we may carry as much as 60 days of inventory on hand to ride through shipment delays or manufacturing issues.” Supply Chain has set up several processes to ensure the availability and safety of PPE and other critical supplies, including identifying alternate products and sources, vetting 164 alternate vendors, and working closely with Infection Prevention to verify alternate products’ effectiveness.

The COVID-19 pandemic created many difficult challenges, but Brian and his team have persevered. They continued to finish projects that were started before the pandemic, including making several major product changes to create financial savings for GBMC, changing medical distributors, and finishing a loading dock construction project that required a move for the team. These are all difficult undertakings without the added stress of a global pandemic, but they are necessary to ensure the absolute safety of our patients and staff.

“I love working at GBMC. The Supply Chain team and the entire organization are great. We have had an unbelievable year and are now positioned to make even more process improvements in our future,” Brian shared. GBMC HealthCare is incredibly grateful for the dedicated work performed by Brian and his team in Supply Chain – they are among many of the unsung heroes of this pandemic. To support the Supply Chain team and all of our healthcare workers during this time, please visit www.gbmc.org/donations.
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