Sense of Urgency

How one equipment distributor planned, procured and installed three alternate COVID-19 hospitals in a condensed timeframe.

On March 30, 2020, CME Corp. (CME), a national full-service equipment distributor and NDC member, got a call from David Schnell, branch preparedness chief at the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, asking if CME would be interested in working with him on three different alternate hospitals treating COVID-19 patients in and around the Providence, Rhode Island area. The state needed to have properly equipped multiple alternate hospital sites up and running in a compressed timeframe.

“Even though CME was working hard on many other critical COVID-19 projects across the country, we could not refuse the chance to help our home state of Rhode Island with their COVID-19 preparedness plan,” said Normand Chevrette, president, CME.

The project involved planning, sourcing, receiving, staging, warehousing, assembling and delivering 15,893 items from 55 manufacturers to three sites in Providence, Cranston and North Kingston, Rhode Island. The entire project added 1,385 beds designated for low-acuity COVID-19 patients managed by two large IDNs. Over five government agencies, two hospital systems, a project management team, an equipment planning group, a construction company, Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance Team (RIDMAT) and CME all collaborated in the planning and execution of the project. Government agencies included the National Guard, Office of the Governor, the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense and local municipalities

From March 30 to April 1, CME assessed sites with the National Guard and project management team. The CME government team then reviewed equipment lists with operations and clinic staff from two local hospitals responsible for operating the three new facilities. On April 2 and 3, CME sourced all items and began procurement. From April 6 to April 14, products were received at CME’s Warwick warehouse where they were staged, assembled and prepared for delivery. By April 15, products began to be delivered to the three sites in 50-plus trucks by more than 20 CME installer and biomedical services teammates.

Obstacles to overcome

Challenges abounded. The most critical equipment needed for COVID-19 temporary facilities was in short supply or had long lead times, said Cindy Juhas, chief strategy officer, CME. The timeline was tight – CME was tasked to find equipment that could be delivered within a two-week timeframe. For example, the state needed 1,500 beds/mattresses, 1,200 commodes and 2,000 privacy curtains (3.6 miles of curtain). Equipment lists had to be created in a short timeframe.

Logistics, too, posed a challenge. The state of Rhode Island could provide no storage space for new equipment and had insufficient human resources to provide staging, assembly, installation and delivery direct to the rooms. Two of the three facilities required the assembled equipment delivered in a three-day period, including a weekend.

And, having so many federal, state and local agencies trying to accomplish the same goals with different operating and management systems provided additional complications.

Fortunately, CME maintains an up-to-date quick ship list that was utilized to find much of the equipment needed. Certain items had to be sourced from multiple vendors to get the large numbers needed. “CME created a team focused specifically on this project, including our government sales team and several other key teammates who called to get confirmation of product availability and ship dates from over 50 manufacturers,” said Cindy Juhas, chief strategy officer, CME.

CME made available the warehouse space and provided necessary staff to receive, inspect, stage, assemble and prepare for delivery. CME also opened its warehouse on a Saturday for the National Guard Commander and the Branch Preparedness Chief of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency to inspect portions of the received product. Over 20 CME teammates loaded trucks and delivered product over two and a half days, including a weekend.

Responsive and understanding

The project was primarily managed by an equipment planning group with direction from the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency and the Rhode Island National Guard. “All parties involved had to be patient, flexible and timely in their response,” said Juhas.

The project was a success. Over 90% of the items were delivered within the timeframe presented. “Immediately upon being assigned the task of being on the Medical Surge Team, I thought about a local company in Warwick, CME Corp,” said Schnell. “Upon speaking to the CME staff, I knew I made the right call. They were responsive, understanding the urgency of the situation, and ready and willing to assist!”

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