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Natural disasters are often unexpected, but when disasters impact medical supplies, the response executed by St. Luke’s is far from spontaneous. Instead, it is based on the extensive preparations a team from St. Luke’s Supply Chain takes to ensure there are backup plans for various scenarios.
Hurricane Maria had a devastating impact when it hit Puerto Rico in fall 2017. Its destruction included a plant that was a major supplier of medical IV bags, forcing hospitals to pursue other resources to continue providing seamless patient care.
At the same time, St. Luke’s has been challenged by a robust flu season and some other manufacturer issues.
Months later, the challenges continue. Although it hasn’t created a patient safety issue, it has required clinicians and others to adjust their workflows, according to Bill Whiting, St. Luke’s assistant inventory manager.
For example, nurses deployed an alternative care procedure called “IV push,” in which nurses mix up medication in a syringe and push it directly into the IV line.
To ensure there continues to be an adequate supply of solutions, a team performs a daily analysis of existing stock.
“We have lots of alternative care procedures and the clinicians are trained in that,” Whiting said. “Our clinical staff have been very good about this.”
This isn’t the first time St. Luke’s has been faced with medical supply shortages. In fact, it has happened several times, Whiting said. In 2017 issues with a plastics company caused a national urinal shortage.
Each time a shortage occurs, Whiting’s team springs into action with a backup plan.
“There are a lot of years of experience and the whole team to resolve these issues and handle them to the best of our ability,” Whiting said. “It’s actually very positive how we come together. You look at all these different options on how to solve the problems.”
Chereen Langrill is a former communications coordinator for St. Luke’s Health System
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