Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

COVID-19 has exposed the sensitive spots in senior care — understaffed facilities, lack of resources — but also the innovation that takes place each and every day.

Whether it’s being creative with care — housing staff on premises to help contain the virus — or finding new and interesting ways to keep residents engaged, facilities are rising to meet the challenge in numerous ways.

One provider, Beecan Health, in southern California, is finding smart ways to distribute needed personal protective equipment to the many facilities in the area that need it, including facilities outside its organization.

Eli Oscherowitz, Beecan’s director of purchasing and plant operations, explained the problem: While the Department of Health in Los Angeles has been distributing PPE supplies to nursing homes, there, unfortunately, is no formula for distribution. This meant that facilities were getting items they didn’t need or the wrong items, such as the wrong size N95.

“I came up with a small solution: pulling together all of our nursing homes to relocate supplies between us all,” Oscherowitz told McKnight’s.

How did he do it? He responded to an email from the county with a Google form, asking facilities what N95s they have and what critical PPE they need. He received 80 to 100 responses.

After having the data, he was able to contact facilities and share and swap supplies — such as take a facility’s 500 small masks and give them 500 big masks. Within 24 hours, he had over 5,000 N95s — large ones — being reallocated to other facilities. To deliver the supplies, he coordinates the pick-up or drop-off among the facilities.

“I was able to distribute to 20 nursing homes that didn’t have N95s, and now they can cover frontline staff,” said Oscherowitz, who, given his background dealing with suppliers and vendors, is in a good position to coordinate this supply chain. 

The need for proper PPE and supplies helps everyone, he noted.

“We are working together to ensure our staff are fully protected at all times, because many staff work at several nursing homes,” he said. “If even a single one of our nursing homes is not protected, then that becomes a problem for all of them. This is my solution to help one aspect of what our providers are dealing with on a daily basis.”

Coordinating supplies is not a task that administrators are accustomed to nor should have to contend with, he said.

“Instead of worrying about patient care and keeping residents safe … they now find themselves worrying about things like masks and supplies,” he said. “No one gets trained when they become administrator on the proper use of a N95.”

His system has caught the attention of the California Association of Health Facilities, which may try to incorporate it on a more global level in California, according to Oscherowitz.

So what does it take to be this logistics middleman?

“You’ve got to be energetic about helping others,” he said. “You’ve got to carefully research and collect the right data to determine everyone’s needs and then be strategic with your approach to distribution. Planning is everything in a dire situation like this.”

“I think anyone can do it,” he continued. “Now that everyone has been forced to understand and deal with PPE, anyone in the healthcare world can get this done. All it takes is the initiative to help others. “

Besides helping facilities, Oscherowitz gets something out of the effort, too, he said.

“It’s satisfying for me to help others. That kind of passion is built into the Beecan Health DNA — even when we’re helping facilities that aren’t our own.” he said. “You’re seeing everyone step up at the same time. They are stepping up and saying I have 50 masks. I will gladly help out.”

Now that’s a community I’d gladly be a part of at this critical time.

Liza Berger is senior editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.