21 Apr, 2020, 10:00 ET
LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla., April 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In the early days of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, it was clear the nation's supply of masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) was inadequate for the task at hand – protecting millions of healthcare workers and patients from a mysterious, highly contagious novel virus. The mad scramble was there for all to see, as President Trump's daily news conferences highlighted efforts by multiple federal agencies to procure PPE and distribute it, particularly to the pandemic's hotspots such as New York.
The initial lack of any kind of centralized, coordinated approach to procurement left healthcare providers to their own devices. Many were forced to literally scour the globe for critical PPE supplies, and they still are. The experience of Family Home Health Services, a Lakewood Ranch, Florida-based home health provider in 33 Florida counties, is a case in point. The company recognized the risk early and assigned two managers, Renee Bibian, vice president of education and quality, and Carol Graber, operations system support manager, to spearhead the procurement effort.
"Medical supply chains dried up fast or they were allocating supplies based on past orders. Home health agencies were left to look elsewhere," Graber said. "It became quite clear early on that we did not have the quantity that was going to be needed."
To make matters worse, Bibian and Graber found themselves competing for the same limited supplies with governments and companies around the world: Federal agencies, state agencies, other healthcare providers and even non-healthcare companies who were trying to protect their employees.
"I can't even begin to count the number of calls and emails we received from our peers in the healthcare industry looking for supplies, a lot of them panic calls." Bibian said. "Of course, our first priority is to our patients and clinical staff, so in most circumstances I, regrettably, had to say no."
The task called for creativity, resourcefulness, and a certain degree of tenacity. Bibian and Graber located masks from construction companies, fabric supply websites, office supply companies, Amazon, Groupon, and even a media design and printing company in Kuala Lumpur. They purchased 10 five-gallon buckets of hand sanitizer from a distillery, converted to making hand sanitizer during the epidemic. They found gloves from a beauty supply company. They even enlisted the help of co-workers, one of whom researched the CDC website on how to make masks and produced 400 handmade fabric masks.
Although Family Home Health now has adequate PPE supplies in all its 17 locations, Bibian said the PPE search process is never ending. "We're ok for the time being, but I can already see a shortage of isolation gowns in the pipeline. My sourcing calls often consist of finding someone who knows a guy who knows a guy, most times outside the normal channel of medical suppliers."
Learn more about Family Home Health Services by visiting www.fhhsfl.com
SOURCE Family Home Health Services
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