In early March, Supply Chain struck a special COVID-19 response team to address challenges of scarce supplies, increasing demand, and an influx of offers from potential new vendors.
Supply Chain COVID-19 response team finds solutions for impossible situations
The Response Team is made up of people from all areas of PHSA and Supply Chain. Normally, Neil (top right) works on sourcing equipment for new builds in hospitals. From top left to right: Monica Blaustein, Amar Gill, Neil Maharaj. Bottom Left to Right: Eddie Moran, Inessa Rubin
“People are now starting to see how complex and important supply chain is – it’s so much more than just moving a box from here to there,” explained Neil Maharaj, sourcing manager of the COVID-19 response team with Supply Chain.
“When things are going well, it’s the kind of thing no one notices – but in a crisis, everyone is focused on supplies.”
Luckily, COVID-19 also prompted a staggering number of offers from new or alternative suppliers and donors around the world. The COVID-19 team dove in, actively chasing down new opportunities and responding to offers.
“When we started, we had well over 3600 offers to sift through. We were chasing down all possible leads for suitable products, and also carefully vetting every opportunity for safety and quality” said Neil.
In those early days, Neil and his team worked long days filled with calls to assess potential new vendors. “I’d schedule back-to-back 14-minute calls to speak with as many companies as possible, leaving just one minute to dial the next number.”
Over the following weeks, Supply Chain developed more infrastructure to handle offers, partnering with the new Provincial Supply Co-ordination Unit at Emergency Management B.C. and the Province to launch the COVID-19 supply hub, a single entry point to coordinate and triage supply leads.
It’s often a 24/7 job for Neil and the COVID-19 Supply Chain response team.
They work with local suppliers during the day - visiting factories, setting up contracts and consulting on products – and work overnight to arrange deals and troubleshoot with major international suppliers in other time zones.
Their hard work has paid off.
Supply Chain has succeeded in purchasing more than 101 million units of PPE since mid-February and has secured a steady flow of PPE to our provincial health care system with purchase orders for millions more units in the coming months.
“So many times throughout the COVID-19 response, we’ve faced seemingly impossible supply situations – and in every case, it’s been inspiring to see how PHSA Supply Chain and our committed vendors have pulled through to consistently deliver creative and effective solutions,” said Neil.
Supply Chain leads a working group with representatives from every health authority that coordinates the flow of supplies within B.C. to the places they’re needed most.
Before COVID-19, pandemic stock was owned separately by the regional health authorities. Early in the COVID-19 response, it became clear that pandemic stock needs to be a provincial resource. With Ministry approval and support, Supply Chain became the owner of the provincial pandemic stock in February, enabling a coordinated flow of PPE across the province.
In the last few months there has been several COVID outbreaks at health authority sites. Supply Chain was able to direct resources to address emergency requirement on PPE and urgent delivery requests.
For example, earlier this year, one hospital lab had a supply problem and the Supply Chain sourcing allied health team responded to immediately to fly lab supplies from Island to Interior Health so COVID-19 tests could continue running smoothly.
Supply Chain's performance team, with the support of IMITS, implemented a real-time database for health care staff with numbers on current PPE stock around B.C., to provide transparency and enable health authorities to better coordinate supplies.
The clinical standardization team worked closely with the provincial health and safety assessment and review team throughout COVID-19 to ensure PPE meets clinical standards to protect care providers.
Coordinating as a province, Supply Chain also chartered regular flights from international suppliers to B.C., so that there aren’t long delays waiting weeks for commercial cargo space to become available to vendors. Locally, Supply Chain now has contracts with many B.C.-based manufacturers. As a single buying agent for the province’s health care system, they’re are able to negotiate on volume, price and supply.
These are just some of many examples of Supply Chain’s exceptional work to support B.C.’s health care system, as Minister of Health Adrian Dix has highlighted in the government’s COVID-19 briefings.
“Our success in sourcing safe and effective PPE in BC is something to be proud of…this success was not based on luck.”