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New Year, New Supplies: Hartford HealthCare Gets A Year’s Worth of PPE

January 08, 2021

PPE With pallets of supplies stacked behind him, Hartford HealthCare (HHC) President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Flaks pledged to maintain a year’s worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the body armor our healthcare heroes wear on the front line every day to fight back this virus,” Flaks said Jan. 8 in a media briefing in the system’s new 54,000-square-foot warehouse space. “This is a pivotal moment for Hartford HealthCare.”

Traditionally, HHC kept a two-month supply of gloves, masks, gowns and other PPE, a stash that quickly dwindled when the pandemic clamped down last March and clinical teams were using eight to 10 times more items as they cared for sick patients.

Calling the lack of PPE “the greatest risk” at that point, Flaks credited HHC’s supply team with finding creative ways of rebuilding inventory. He likened preparations that will fill the warehouse over the next six months with PPE to America’s hoard of crude oil after the 1970s oil crisis.

“This is us being better than normal. We will have a stockpile of supplies in place for any situation and will be among the national leaders in supply and capability,” Flaks said.

PPE in shrink-wrapped cartons represent the efforts of Milrose Mercado’s team throughout the pandemic. The senior vice president of supply chain said her team developed a multi-pronged sourcing plan in the spring.

“We have built direct relationships with factories across Asia to ensure supply and we have established production lines dedicated to HHC,” she said.

PPE provides life-saving protection for colleagues coming into contact with people ill with COVID. Sherri Vogt, a veteran liaison with Hartford HealthCare at Home who was redeployed to COVID testing sites and now vaccination clinics, recalled being “strategic” in her use of face shields and hand sanitizer when supplies were low in the spring.

“I felt like Wonder Woman when I donned and doffed appropriately,” she said.

HHC, which has administered more than 18,000 vaccines at seven centers statewide, spent more than $30 million on PPE in 2020, compared with $5 million in a typical year. The inventory in the new warehouse represents an investment of $3 to $5 million, Mercado said.

“We’ve learned that the best practice is to prepare for mass supply disruption,” Flaks said. “We believe all healthcare systems should build an inventory at this level. It’s prudent.”