Securing Critical Items

HIDA proposes a solution to getting PPE to where it belongs – in the hands of healthcare providers

The availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) has improved significantly since the onset of the coronavirus, but as COVID-19 continues to spread, healthcare providers are stockpiling available product to prepare for spikes in new infections.

These well-intentioned initiatives seek to prevent future PPE shortages. In reality, creating large provider-held stockpiles, even as COVID-19 cases are increasing throughout the country, will contribute to ongoing PPE shortages by taking supplies in high demand on the front lines to the back shelf of a warehouse.

It is completely understandable that health systems do not want to find themselves short on PPE, but securing these critical products has become even more challenging as states such as California and New York institute stockpiling requirements. California Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted a law in September mandating hospitals keep a 90-day supply or be subject to a $25,000 fine. New York now requires hospitals to keep reserves that would cover 90 days of patient care and nursing homes to set aside enough equipment for 60 days.

These types of requirements are adding to shortages and placing demands on hospital space and finances that could be better used for patient care. For a 350-bed hospital, a 90-day stockpile of a typical mix of PPE would fill 13 to 15 tractor-trailers with an amount of space that is impractical at most hospitals that size. A 5,000-bed system of 10-12 hospitals would need the equivalent of one and a half football fields of space.

Distributors offer experience in strengthening pandemic preparedness

A better approach is something that is happening across the country – leveraging the proven expertise of health industry distributors. Distributors have the infrastructure ready to provide storage, logistics support, and expertise to manage costs as well as operational and logistics issues. All this can be done while building a new national pandemic response infrastructure capable of replenishing supplies.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, distributors have proven to be trusted partners with both healthcare providers and government planners in delivering quality, FDA-approved products to providers.

HIDA has outlined a new vision for a pandemic response infrastructure that supports a partnership between the commercial sector and the government. Sustainable stockpiles are a key element of the plan. Under HIDA’s proposal, reserves of PPE and other critical products would be held at 500 commercial distribution centers located around the country. These reserves would be designed to meet first-call needs of providers for the first 30 to 60 days of an emergency.

During those initial days of a pandemic, the country could then mobilize expanded surge manufacturing capacity to meet the increased and ongoing equipment demands of the emergency. Once the surge manufacturing capabilities are brought up to speed and expand production, they could then support and replenish the third pillar of the system: centralized stockpiles designed to support state and local government needs and to serve as an overall backstop to the commercial supply chain, if needed.

Finally, end-user aligned supply chains would help prevent the competition for PPE among the different consumers of PPE, such as healthcare providers, local governments and retailers, rather than leading them to bid against one another during an emergency.

We are all in this together. By combining government resources with distributor’s infrastructure and expertise, we can better position the nation to address our current challenges and the ones yet to come.

To learn more about HIDA’s proposal “Building A More Robust Supply Chain: A Public-Private Framework To Create A Pandemic Response Infrastructure,“ visit HIDA.org/UnderstandingHealthcareDistribution.