Sandy and the supply chain: The vital role of GPOs

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John Sganga
John Sganga

Healthcare is a 24/7 business. No one knows that better than long-term care facilities. They double as both healthcare providers and homes to the residents they serve—even during extreme weather emergencies. Having the necessary supplies is critical to remaining open and safe. So, how can you best protect your facility from severe weather emergencies —including supply chain disruptions—and meet your patient care mission? 

Although Hurricane Sandy-related news coverage has been plentiful, no one has focused on the crucial role the supply chain played in ensuring that healthcare providers could continue to serve patients and residents. The Innovatix team—in conjunction with our parent organizations (the Greater New York Hospital Association and GNYHA Ventures)—helped staff New York City's Office of Emergency Management during storm preparation and recovery. With this firsthand experience, I want to share some thoughts about the important role GPOs play in emergency response.

GPOs excel in two areas that make them uniquely qualified for emergency response efforts: relationships and sourcing. During an emergency, your facility may need additional or different supplies than you typically purchase. If staff is working around the clock, perhaps you require more food or cots and linens. What if you lose power? Do you need generator cables, fuel, batteries? With large product portfolios, GPOs can quickly source critical product requests and connect you with suppliers. This role becomes even more vital if weather prevents purchasing staff from working on-site.

What happens if the local distributor's warehouse floods, destroying all of the stock? Or, with increased demand, your vendor runs out of a particular item? Again, GPOs cultivate relationships with many manufacturers and distributors, increasing the likelihood of locating critical products. Moreover, GPOs are membership-based organizations, which, during times of emergency, can be leveraged as local supply networks. We certainly saw this type of community support during Hurricane Sandy. If one nursing home lost power or ran low on supplies, other local facilities shared resources, ensuring uninterrupted patient care.  GPOs are not only well-equipped to support surges in demand, their national network of members and suppliers can help circumvent logistical issues (like compromised warehouses, shuttered airports, or closed roads). Our GPO expertise and supply connections were even used to help convert shelter locations into satellite medical clinics capable of housing patients with controlled chronic illnesses.

Lastly, some GPOs serve as liaisons to state and federal agencies, advocating for industry-wide concerns (e.g., reimbursement issues or drug shortages). In an emergency, GPOs can connect facilities in need with critical government resources. During Sandy, Innovatix and GNYHA Ventures staff worked with emergency responders to secure National Guard escorts, enabling distributors to transport supplies across closed bridges. 

GPOs specialize in delivering the right products to the right patients at the right time—a mission that becomes more critical when ensuring the continuity of care during an emergency. Create a supply chain emergency plan now. And remember, your GPO may be one of your most critical resources when you are in critical need.

John P. Sganga, FACHE, is the president and CEO of Innovatix, LLC, a leading national non-acute care GPO headquartered in New York City.

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