The Supply Chain team at St. Luke’s Health System isn’t entirely made up of former scouts.
But the “be prepared” ethos certainly served Supply Chain leaders as they positioned St. Luke’s to handle the coronavirus outbreak.
In mid-January, Supply Chain began experiencing supply blips.
“As it turned out, those shortages were the early indicator signs of the larger PPE (personal protective equipment) shortages that now exist at unprecedented levels across the country,” said Adrian Wengert, vice president of Supply Chain at St. Luke’s.
“Having those first two weeks in January to source and procure alternative sources and brands of PPE is the reason we haven’t run out like hospitals in other communities have.”
Wengert and the team kicked into overdrive.
“We tapped into domestic dental, veterinary, hospitality, pharmaceutical lab and even tattoo distribution channels,” he said, “and pulled together roughly six to 11 months’ worth of PPE.”
Preparedness, creativity – and due diligence.
“We’re taking each available option, including donations, and making sure they meet clinical standards,” said Jessica Sloan, director of value analysis in Supply Chain.
The St. Luke’s Supply Chain team has used any number of different avenues across the globe to find N95 respirator masks, procedure masks and isolation gowns. Sloan and her team ensure quality and safety, no matter the source.
“We are trying to maintain our standards,” she said, “but there are going to be some differences compared to the products that we had previously been able to purchase.”
Supply Chain employees have hustled to keep up with the organization’s needs, and Laurie Martin, a project manager in Supply Chain, has observed that St. Luke’s preparedness has risen above that of some counterparts elsewhere.
“I know there are other health systems, both globally and across the country, that are using homemade PPE,” Martin said. “St. Luke’s has managed to avoid that thus far, which is pretty amazing and speaks to the efforts of our Supply Chain team.”
Even if those efforts often take place behind the scenes.
“We’re kind of locked away in a building in Meridian and nobody sees the work that our teams are doing,” Martin said. “We’re really just trying to do what we can to support the system.”
Wengert said he is grateful to lead a team that has worked so tirelessly and selflessly.
“It’s a herculean amount of effort, and we wouldn’t be in this state of supply preparedness without the dedication and commitment from the team,” Wengert said. “The organization didn’t set these expectations for us, but we knew if we didn’t step up that there would be dire consequences for our direct caregivers, providers, employees and patients in the communities we serve.
“I’m extremely proud of the Supply Chain team and all of our efforts.”
St. Luke’s regularly addresses the possibility of drug shortages, according to Scott Milner, senior director of pharmacy.
“We have a call that we do every week to talk about shortages, even outside of COVID,” Milner said.
Pharmacy leadership monitored the coronavirus situation during the early stages of the outbreak and decided to try to get in front of any shortages that might arise.
“We created a central inventory stock, something we’ve never done before,” Milner said. “We brought this inventory in early.
“So far, we’ve been able to get what we need for our patients in our facilities.”
As with Supply Chain, Milner said it was key that pharmacy leadership created a plan and set it in motion.
“The thing I keep saying is that our system did a number of things up front, our Supply Chain and pharmacy had us equipped from the start to have what we need,” he said. “That’s given us a degree of comfort.
“We’re strategically ready to care for whatever comes through our doors.”
Chris Langrill is a writer and copy editor for the St. Luke’s Communications and Marketing department.